For the first time in nearly three decades, the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is welcoming a new executive director.
Claudio Gómez, director of the National Museum of Natural History of Chile, has been named the museum’s first Jefferson Chapman Executive Director, announced Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor David Manderscheid on Monday. The position is named in honor of the current director, who will remain until Gómez starts on September 1.
“Mr. Gómez’s extensive museum experience in both Chile and the United States has prepared him well to lead the McClung Museum, which has an important role in the university’s outreach, education, and research mission,” Manderscheid said. “I want to thank Dr. Chapman for his decades of excellent leadership and his continued service through his transition.”
As director, Gómez will lead a museum that hosts classes for thousands of UT students, has received five accreditations from the American Alliance of Museums, has won more than 50 awards from the Tennessee State Association of Museums in two decades, and has welcomed more than 1.4 million visitors since it opened in 1963. The McClung Museum holds 27,000 objects in its arts and culture collections as well as millions of specimens in its archaeology, paleoethnobotany, and malacology collections.
Serving as director of Chile’s National Museum of Natural History since 2007, Gómez oversaw a 140 percent increase in visitors to the museum—the largest increase for a public museum in the country. Last year, the museum served more than a million people, including 6,274 K–12 students participating in a science outreach program. He led a renovation that included nearly 24,000 square feet of new exhibits focused on Chile’s indigenous peoples and ecosystems, as well as audio guides in different languages and the first mobile app developed for a Chilean museum. Under his leadership, the museum became the first in South America to allow free downloads of 3D digital models of objects in its collections.
Gómez has extensive professional experience in both Chile and the United States, where he earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh in 2002. He previously earned a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology from the Universidad de Chile in 1990. Gómez has been professionally affiliated with the American Alliance of Museums since 1997 and has served as a research fellow at the National Museum of Natural History and as a Lampadia Fellow at the National Gallery of Art, both in Washington, DC.
“I am deeply honored to be named the executive director of the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture,” Gómez said. “The McClung Museum is a great cultural and educational resource in East Tennessee, and I am thrilled to join its team so we can work together to increase its impact in the communities it serves, as well as find and develop new audiences that can be reached with current and potential new activities.”
Retiring director Chapman oversaw much of the museum’s growth during his 29-year tenure as director. A research associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, he transitioned into the role of director in 1990 and spearheaded the expansion of the museum’s permanent collections in anthropology, geology, archaeology, human origins, history, decorative arts, ancient Egypt, and natural history. He also initiated K–12 and university academic programs at the museum, created a membership program, and increased research activities.
“I am pleased with the choice of Claudio Gómez,” Chapman said. “His international reputation will enhance the prestige of the university and the museum, and his expertise will continue to elevate McClung’s role as the only museum of world cultures in our region.”
The McClung Museum is located at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free, and the museum’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Free parking is available on the weekends. Free public transportation to the museum is available Monday through Saturday on the Knoxville Trolley Orange Line. See the museum’s website for more information about family programming, parking, and collections and exhibits.
Media coverage: News Sentinel, Amy McRary, June 18
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