Profile: David McDonnell, National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside

As money making becomes ever more important to galleries and museums, it was timely that Liverpool-born accountant David McDonnell has been chosen as chairman of the trustees, to take the National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside (NMGM) into the new millennium. Having played two gigs as the drummer with the Quarrymen, who later became the Beatles, McDonnell became involved in accountancy by accident. ‘I didn’t go to university and wanted to go to sea, but my father, who was from the financial world, thwarted me,’ he said. After qualifying in 1964, he worked in Liverpool for Grant Thornton, until his appointment as national managing partner of the international accountancy firm in 1989 brought him to London.

Awarded national status 11 years ago for the quality of its collections, the NMGM has been under enormous financial pressure. A priority for McDonnell is to guarantee the preservation of the collection and to maximise public access. Amid controversy over the death of the free museum, an application for Heritage Lottery Fund support for 2001 was made to increase display capacity for the collections.

‘I’m optimistic about our bid. We should find out if we have funding in the next couple of months.’ He sees the successful introduction of an admission charge as ‘a damn good idea’. ‘I live in the real world where the fundamentals of life are not free so it is difficult to sustain the argument for not charging.’

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