REYAHN King is to step down as chief executive officer of York Museums Trust to be the National Trust for Scotland’s director of heritage properties in a summer return to her birthplace.
Reyahn has been in post since September 2015, leading the independent charity that cares for the City of York’s collections and operates York Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum, York Museum Gardens, York Art Gallery and York St Mary’s.
As CEO, she has steered York Museums Trust through one of the toughest periods in its history, when facing the need for lockdowns in the Coronavirus pandemic.
During her seven-year tenure, Reyahn has achieved great change for the trust. Under her leadership, she introduced a new vision and mission that puts audiences and communities at the heart of its work, while strengthening the charity’s fundraising activity and generating increased revenue from commercial activities.
York Art Gallery has presented such public exhibitions as the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years ceramics and chart-topping Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs’ award-winning fusion of art and sound, When All Is Quiet, as well as championing experimentation in Strata- Rock- Dust- Stars.
Alongside this step change in the public programme, Reyahn oversaw the opening of two new permanent galleries: Jurassic Yorkshire at the Yorkshire Museum and Shaping The Body at York Castle Museum.
Reyahn will leave a lasting legacy for York Museums Trust, having overseen the acquisition of the St Mary’s Abbey 13th-century Limoges Figure of Christ and the Ryedale Roman Bronzes, soon to go on display at the Yorkshire Museum in April 2022. She worked with City of York Council, stakeholders and the public to develop a compelling vision for York Castle Museum.
Reyahn has been a leading figure within the museum sector championing inclusion, diversity and equality. She has championed the inclusion of diverse and underrepresented artists within the public programme, with exhibitions such as Sounds Like Her and The Sea Is The Limit. and has led a significant internal inclusion, diversity and anti-racism culture change programme at York Museums Trust.
As chair of the York Cultural Leaders Group, Reyahn led the development of York’s Culture Strategy, which sets out to “create a more collaborative, higher-profile cultural city that truly benefits residents”.
Reyahn says: “It has been a joy and a privilege to lead the amazing staff at York Museums Trust and to be part of York’s cultural scene. I’m thrilled to be joining National Trust for Scotland at a time when NTS is doing such important work for Scottish culture, heritage and nature.”
James Grierson, York Museums Trust’s chair, says: “Reyahn has been a wonderful chief executive, modernising the organisation and culture of York Museums Trust, bringing in some great new talents, enriching our collections and staging some important and inspiring exhibitions.
“She led the leadership team’s highly professional response to the enormous challenges of the last couple of years and, notwithstanding the shadow the pandemic has caused, leaves the trust in good heart.
“The richness of experience she has had in York will, I am sure, be put to very effective use with the National Trust for Scotland and, while my fellow trustees and I will be sorry to lose her, Reyahn leaves behind a significant legacy, and one of the most exciting jobs in the sector, and I’m confident that her successor will be very well placed to take York Museums Trust on the next stage of its journey.”
Phil Long, chief executive of the National Trust for Scotland, says: “The National Trust for Scotland’s portfolio of properties is the foundation of all that we do. Caring for them also means caring for the stories of Scotland and enabling everybody to find out about and be inspired by our shared heritage.
“That’s why Reyahn’s appointment is so important for the trust and, given her track record of success with York Museums Trust and other organisations, we are delighted that she will be joining us to bring to the trust her experience and insight.”
Recruitment for Reyahn King’s successor in York will begin this spring.
Reyahn King: the back story
AS chief executive of York Museums Trust, Reyahn has strategic and operational responsibility for museums, an art gallery, botanic gardens, scheduled monuments and Museums Development Yorkshire.
Before moving to York, Reyahn had been head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, director of art galleries at National Museums Liverpool and head of interpretation and exhibitions/masterplan at Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.
Reyahn is an experienced leader who brings people together to develop new visions for culture and heritage. She is on the board of Culture Perth and Kinross and is thrilled to be returning to work in the country of her birth as the National Trust for Scotland’s director of heritage properties from this summer.
Passionate about diversity and equality, Reyahn began her career as a curator and programmer who produced exhibitions notable for their relevance to a wider, more diverse range of audiences, such as curating the ground-breaking Ignatius Sancho: An African Man Of Letters at the National Portrait Gallery, London.