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17 February 2024

Katherine McMahon has been appointed as Director of the National Museum of Australia, in Canberra.

Ms McMahon has worked at the National Museum for seven years, as Assistant Director Discovery and Collections, Deputy Director and most recently, as acting Director.

Ms McMahon said she was both delighted and honoured to accept the appointment and thanked Minister for the Arts the Hon Tony Burke MP and the National Museum’s Council, for their support.

Three people stand outside the front entrance to the National Museum of Australia.
New National Museum of Australia director Katherine McMahon with Minister for the Arts the Hon Tony Burke MP and Council Chair Ben Maguire AM (left)

Ms McMahon praised the government for its investment in the cultural sector and for its commitment to the arts, as reflected in its landmark National Cultural Policy, ‘Revive’ which re-positions the creative sector as central to Australia’s future.

‘I’m honoured to accept the position of Director of the National Museum, a globally acclaimed and locally trusted and cherished institution, which has a unique mandate to explore our national identity, providing a place for every story,’ Ms McMahon said.

‘After dedicating two decades in leadership roles to the cultural sector where I’ve brought some of our nation’s great stories to life, I can’t wait to bring the same passion and energy to the country’s most important museum.

‘Telling our shared stories and honouring our proud First Nations history, with integrity and honesty will be a first order issue for the Museum in the coming years.

‘Expanding the scope and reach of the groundbreaking Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom to school students across the country, will be another key focus.

‘The National Museum has reached deeply into classrooms across the country, and I am committed to investing further to broaden and deepen participation and to cement the organisation’s position as the country’s most trusted online Australian history resource.

‘Sharing our extraordinary national collection with onsite, offsite and online visitors in bold and exciting ways, is fundamental to the Museum’s mission – our programs will take the Australian story to more people, wherever they are, over my tenure’.

National Museum Council Chair, Ben Maguire AM, congratulated Ms McMahon on her appointment which he said has the council’s unanimous support.

‘The National Museum’s Council is delighted by this appointment – Katherine McMahon will provide the leadership, ambition and vision to build on the institution’s successes to date and drive the organisation through its next pivotal phase,’ Mr Maguire said.

‘We can’t wait to see where she takes the Museum in the years ahead’.


Katherine McMahon has more than 20 years in senior leadership roles in the arts and cultural sector. Prior to joining the National Museum, she led a decade long program of major gallery renewal at the Australian War Memorial which included the delivery of the acclaimed First World War galleries.

Since joining the National Museum in 2017 Ms McMahon has overseen the organisation’s curatorial, collections, exhibitions, and First Nations programs, served as Deputy Director and most recently, as acting Director.

Ms McMahon led the delivery of the National Museum’s gallery renewal program culminating in the ground-breaking environmental history gallery, Great Southern Land and a new Discovery Centre for the Museum’s youngest visitors to experience Australian stories through play. She has been instrumental in the Museum’s major exhibition program bringing some of world’s greatest collections to Australia from international partners including the British Museum, the National Art Museum of China, and the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities.

During her tenure, she has overseen unprecedented success in the acquisition of major cultural collections, including the Trevor Kennedy Collection, one of the largest and most significant privately owned holdings of Australian decorative arts and historical objects.

Ms McMahon was born at the old Canberra Hospital (the current site of the National Museum of Australia) and grew up in Canberra. She was educated at the Australian National University and holds a Bachelor of Arts (Art History and Curatorship) with majors in History and Art History.

Media contact: Diana Streak, 0409 888 976 or

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