THE director of Beamish Museum has shocked colleagues by resigning from her post amid claims it had become “impossible” for her to do her job.
Miriam Harte, who has been director of the open-air museum in County Durham for six years, said she had felt “obliged” to resign because of “current structures and management arrangements” at the attraction.
Her departures comes as Beamish looks to invest £40m in a new visitor centre, education facilities and a 300-bedroom hotel and leisure complex to consolidate its position as one of the North-East’s biggest tourist attractions.
The museum last night refused to comment on Mrs Harte’s resignation.
But North Durham MP Kevan Jones said he was shocked by the news and urged councils to look at her reasons for resigning rather than “burying their heads in the sand”.
Mrs Harte, 46, who took over as director at the museum after leaving Bede’s World in Jarrow, South Tyneside, said yesterday: “I look back with immense pride on my six years at Beamish.
“I’m especially proud of the development of the organisation and the many national awards the museum has achieved during that time. I’m also proud of the increasing financial viability of Beamish Museum and the many capital developments supported by the HLF, Single Programme, European funding and charitable trusts.
“It has been a great privilege to have been part of the regional museums hub, which has had such a positive impact on users and access to museums and heritage. I’m delighted to have had a chance to develop a long-term development strategy for the future of the museum, working with staff, partners and stakeholders.”
She added: “However, despite many efforts to raise and address key issues, I now believe that it is impossible for me to properly discharge the duties of the director of this organisation because of current structures and management arrangements, and the way in which these are exercised. I have therefore felt obliged to resign.
“I wish Beamish only success in the future and I would like to thank in particular the staff and volunteers at Beamish and the many, many people who have supported me and my team and I hope will continue to do so.”
During Mrs Harte’s time at Beamish, the museum won the English for Excellence Gold Award in 2005 and was named Large Visitor Attraction of the Year by VisitBritain, which it shared with Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
It also opened three major new areas in the Masonic Hall, the Georgian landscape, and the second phase of the Regional Resource Centre with Tyne and Wear Museums. This year, Mrs Harte also launched plans to create a £6m visitor centre to showcase the displays, literature, ideas and ways of life of the period, and said she hoped to build on the current visitor numbers to attract more than 500,000 people a year to the museum.
Mr Jones last night said: “As a big supporter of Beamish, I’m shocked at Miriam’s resignation.
“It’s important that local authorities look in detail at the reasons why she has resigned and react to them rather than bury their heads in the sand.”