International Forum of Natural History Museum Directors

Reunión de directores

Los próximos lunes 24 y martes 25 de octubre, el  MNCN y la Fundación BBVA acogerán el primer foro internacional que reunirá en una misma ciudad a los directores de los principales museos de ciencias naturales del planeta. El encuentro abordará los principales retos que comparten estos centros en el contexto de la crisis ambiental global. Durante las dos jornadas intervendrán los directivos de algunos de los museos de ciencias naturales más importantes tanto de Europa como de América. 

El programa es el siguiente:



Monday, October 24th, 2022

  • 09:00-10:00    Meeting with the press and morning coffee at the MNCN’s front patio.

MNCN auditorium

  • 10:00-10:15 Welcoming address by Eloísa del Pino, President, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
  • 10:15-11:15 LECTURE: 250 years of the MNCN. Rafael Zardoya, MNCN Director.
  • 11:15-11:30 LECTURE: Re-opening of the National Museum of Brazil. Alexander Kellner, Director, National Museum of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro.
  • 12:00-13:15 ROUND TABLE: The international dimension of natural history museums
    • Michelle J. Price, Chair, Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities - CETAF
    • Harris Lewin, Chair, Earth BioGenome Project - EBP
    • Edwin Van Huis, Chair, Distributed System of Scientific Collections - DiSSCo
    • Moderator: Isabel Sanmartín, Real Jardín Botánico (RJB-CSIC)

Marqués de Salamanca Palace

  • 16:00-17:00 LECTURE: Naturalis: (re)inventing natural history museums. Edwin Van Huis, Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Leiden, Netherlands).
  • 17:30-18:30 LECTURE: The Smithsonian Museum of natural history: the role and opportunities of a national museum. Kirk Johnson, National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC).
  • 18:30-20:00 ROUND TABLE: Natural history museums and the environmental crisis
    • Lisa Månsson, Naturhistoriska riksmuseet (Stockholm, Sweden)
    • Johannes Vogel, Museum für Naturkunde (Berlin, Germany)
    • Peter C. Kjærgaard, Natural History Museum Denmark (Copenhagen, Denmark)
    • Gonzalo Giribet, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University (Cambridge, USA)
    • Moderator: Salvador Carranza, Director, Instituto de Biología Evolutiva (CSIC-UPF), Barcelona

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022

MNCN auditorium

  • 11:00-12:00 ROUND TABLE Managing natural history museums
    • Doug Gurr, The Natural History Museum (London, United Kingdom)
    • Bruno David, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (Paris, France)
    • Lisa Guggenheim, American Museum of Natural History (New York, USA)
    • Moderator: Gonzalo Giribet, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
  • 12:00-13:00 ROUND TABLE: Communicating Natural Science
    • Katrin Vohland, Naturhistorisches Museum (Vienna, Austria)
    • Brigitte Franzen, Senckenberg Naturmuseum Frankfurt (Frankfurt, Germany)
    • Koen Martens, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Brussels, Belgium)
    • Moderator: Luis Quevedo, Director de Proyectos Estratégicos, Fundación Española de Ciencia y Tecnología
  • 13: 00-13:15 Closing remarks.

The Round Tables 


The international dimension of natural history museums

The present and future of natural history museums rely on establishing robust international networks that implement multidisciplinary and collaborative research to face the unprecedented global threats disturbing the planet. In the Internet era, there are many opportunities to foster interconnectivity between museums, and it is envisioned that major museums could ultimately work as a single internationally distributed research infrastructure. This approach implies developing community standards and good practices, accomplishing a massive digitalization of scientific collections (specimens and their metadata), implementing open science policies, as well as coordinating permit applications (Nagoya Protocol), sampling, sequencing of reference genomes, output services, etc. 

Managing natural history museums

Natural history museums are in charge of preserving scientific collections as heritage for future generations, and preserved specimens are the necessary reference for any comparative research in natural sciences. Furthermore, natural history museums need to share discoveries and scientific knowledge, inspire curiosity, and educate the general public. This comprehensive mission makes the managing of these unique institutions a challenging task. Many centenary natural history museums show deep tradition and inertia that constrain their management. Some are public institutions, whereas others are private, having both funding systems pros and cons. All heavily depend on attracting patrons and members. There is controversy on whether museums should be run by scientists, museologists, or treated as corporations that require either a board of trustees or chief executive officers to make major corporate decisions, manage business operations and resources, and ensure best results for stakeholders. 

Natural history museums and the environmental crisis

The increasing human impact on the Earth’s environment is accelerating a drastic degradation of ecosystems to a point that could imperil the survival of our species. There is an urgent need to boost international agreements and initiatives, which need to be based on scientific evidence. Identifying main drivers and tipping points at a global scale is required in order to mitigate climate change, habitat degradation, loss of biodiversity, environmental contamination, invasive species dissemination, etc. In this regard, natural history museums as repositories of the natural heritage and holding collections of historical and modern samples, can help determine historical levels of species richness and distributions in the recent past and their change until the present. Moreover, fossils as well as ice and sediment cores preserved in collections can provide information on the Earth’s climate cycles and biota turnovers. As genomic techniques improve, the possibility of accessing the DNA of collection specimens from currently extinct species becomes more feasible. 

Communicating Natural Science 

Natural history museums are a hub to connect researchers with the general public. There is a high demand for making research discoveries accessible to non-scientists in an appealing and engaging manner. Outreach now should go beyond exhibitions: continuous activities to entertain while educating need to be programed; constant presence in traditional, digital and social media is required to maintain the attention of the citizens into the problems derived from the environmental crisis or to discredit and fight against fake news and pseudo-science. Strong collaboration between artists, journalists, educators, and scientists seems to be the most efficient way to improve natural science communication. The accelerated rate of species extinction and the limited number of taxonomy experts in the museums prompts for enhancing the role of citizen science in e.g., describing new species and monitoring the presence and spread of potential invasive species.



Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Spain

Rafael Zardoya, Director

Rafael Zardoya San Sebastián is Research Professor at the National Museum of Natural Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council (MNCN-CSIC), and has been director of the Museum since 2021. He obtained his Ph.D. in Biology in 1994 from the Complutense University of Madrid and had a postdoctoral grant at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In 2000, he joined the MNCN-CSIC as tenured Senior Scientist. He has supervised a total of 13 doctoral theses. From 2004 to 2009, he chaired the Spanish committee of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) and between 2006 and 2012 he was part of the Biogenesis-DIVERSITAS international committee. Between 2008 and 2012, he was elected coordinator of the Natural Resources area of CSIC. Since 2019 he has been a member of the Academia Europaea, since 2021. He has more than 120 publications in international scientific journals and his work has focused on the study of the evolutionary processes involved in the origin and maintenance of biological diversity, applying a multidisciplinary approach that integrates his experience in molecular systematics and comparative genomics with the knowledge in paleontology, morphology and ecology of his collaborators. 

National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, USA

Kirk Johnson, Director 

Kirk Johnson is a geologist, paleobotanist, and the Sant Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History since 2012. His research focuses on fossil plants and the extinction of the dinosaurs, and he is known for his scientific articles, popular books, museum exhibitions, documentaries, and collaborations with artists. His recent documentaries include “Making North America” (2015) and “Polar Extremes” (2019). His recent books include “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline: The Travels of an Artist and a Scientist along the Shores of the Prehistoric Pacific” (2018) and “Trees are made of Gas, The Story of Carbon and Climate” (2021). Johnson is originally from Bellevue, Washington, received a PhD from Yale University and was previously the Vice President of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA

Lisa J. Gugenheim, Director 

Lisa Gugenheim is the Director of the American Museum of Natural History, appointed in 2021 after serving since 1996 in positions of progressive leadership in strategic planning, institutional advancement, education, and government relations. As Director, Ms. Gugenheim is responsible for the overall operation of the Museum. With an expansive vision for the critical role of museums in society and a commitment to the public good, Ms. Gugenheim has been responsible for increasing AMNH’s visibility and impact on policy and practice. Under her leadership of institutional advancement since 2009, overall support for the Museum has increased through creative public-private partnerships and direct government funding as well as from private giving that includes nearly one billion dollars raised during the Museum’s most recent capital campaign. She currently leads efforts to reassess how the Museum presents non-western cultures and sits on the institution’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee. A lifelong resident of New York City, Ms. Gugenheim is a graduate of Oberlin College. Prior to joining the Museum, she worked in New York City government. 

Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA

Gonzalo Giribet, Director 

Gonzalo Giribet is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Curator in Invertebrate Zoology and Acting Curator in Malacology. He became the 10th Director of the MCZ in 2021. He completed his undergraduate (1993) and PhD (1997) at the Universitat de Barcelona. Following two years of postdoctoral work at the American Museum of Natural History, he joined the faculty of the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard in 2000. He is a Research Associate at the AMNH (New York) and at the FMNH (Chicago), a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco) and an Honorary Research Fellow at the NHM (London). He received a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Copenhagen in 2017. His research has contributed to the areas of invertebrate systematics, biogeography, and animal biology in general. 

Natural History Museum, London, UK

Douglas Gurr, Director 

Doug was appointed Director of The Natural History Museum in December 2020.  Previously, Doug was Country Manager of Amazon UK and President of Amazon China. Earlier roles included the civil service, partner at McKinsey and Company, Director at Asda-Walmart and founder CEO of internet start-up Blueheath. Doug is Chairman of the British Heart Foundation, Chairman of The Alan Turing Institue, a non-executive Director at the Department of Health and Social Care, and former Chairman of the Science Museum. He has degrees in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in Computing from the University of Edinburgh, and previously taught mathematics and computing at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. He is a former Scottish international triathlete, 12 times Ironman, keen ski mountaineer with over 20 first ascents, and an enthusiastic mountain runner. He is married with two children.

Museum national d´Histoire naturelle, Paris, France

Bruno David, Director 

Bruno DAVID is executive President of the National Natural History Museum in France (Muséum national d’histoire naturelle) since September 2015. Formerly he was CNRS director of research, founder and former director of the laboratory Biogéosciences (Dijon), which promotes researches at the interface between life and earth sciences. Originally trained as a palaeontologist, he became a biologist, his works focusing on evolution of living as well as fossil forms. He participated to several oceanographic cruises in Antarctica and around the world, and dove with the submersible “Nautile”. He has published more than 150 peer-reviewed papers, and authored several books, the latest one entitled “À l’aube de la sixième extinction”, Grasset (At the dawn of the 6th extinction). For one year, he produces a short radio program on life and culture (“Le monde vivant”, France Culture).

Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, Netherlands

Edwin van Huis, Director 

Edwin van Huis (1958), biologist and business administrator, has been general director of Naturalis Biodiversity Center since 2011. Under his leadership, the institute grew to become the center in the Netherlands for biodiversity research, as well as a leading international scientific institute. With a national collection of 43 million natural history objects, state-of-the-art research facilities and an innovative ICT infrastructure that brings together biodiversity data from the Netherlands, Europe and worldwide. Van Huis stood at the cradle of the renovated Naturalis that opened in 2019. A beautiful and striking building, where science and the public meet. A research center and family Museum in one, where the showpiece, T. rex Trix has a place of honor. The renovated Naturalis won several architecture and museum awards (including Best Museum of Europe, 2021).

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium 

Koen Martens, Head of Research

Koen Martens is Head of Research of the Royal Belgian Institute of natural Sciences (Brussels, Belgium), guest professor at the University of Ghent (Belgium) and visiting professor at the Graduate Programme on Ecology of Inland Water Ecosystems (Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia de Ambientes Aquáticos Continentais – PEA) of the State University of Maringá (Universidade Estadual de Maringá – UEM, Brazil). His research interests are in aquatic ecology and evolutionary biology, especially in the field of speciation in ancient lakes and the evolution of asexual reproduction. As the coordinator of the Freshwater Animal Diversity Assessment  (FADA) initiative, he is involved in several organisations and initiatives related to the study and conservation of freshwater biodiversity. Koen is author of c. 850 papers, including  240 ISI rated papers, as well as (co-) editor of more than 20 books. Koen has been Editor in Chief of Hydrobiologia since 2003 and is co-founder of the Diamond Open Access European Journal of Taxonomy.

Patricia Supply, Director (not present at the event)

Patricia Supply is acting General Director of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, a world-class institute with close to 170 scientists and scientific collaborators covering a wide range of biological and geological disciplines, a large natural history museum with 350,000 visitors a year and collections that span 38 million specimens and items. With an educational and professional background in Business and Public Management and Financial Sciences, she started out in 2014 as Director of Supporting Services and was responsible for HR, Finances (incl. Legal), ICT, Logistics, Security and Management Support. Following the retirement of the previous General Director in May 2019, she was appointed acting General Director. She is a driven and committed government manager within the Belgian Federal Science Policy with extensive knowledge and experience in strategic, organizational and financial areas driven by the distinct motivation and desire to contribute to the effective steering of organizations. 

Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, Stockholm, Sweden

Lisa Månsson, Director 

Lisa Månsson is the Director General of the Swedish Museum of Natural History and holds a PhD in Infection biology from Karolinska Insitutet. The Swedish Museum of Natural History is one of Sweden’s largest museum with 700 000 visitors yearly, including Northern Europe’s biggest dome-theatre, as well as a world class research institution with an 11-million specimen collection. Lisa started at the museum 2020 as Director of Museum Operations and was appointed Director General in 2021. Lisa has been a leader within museum and science center organizations for more than a decade and during five years she was Museum Director of the Vasa Museum, the most visited museum in Scandinavia (1,5 million visitors yearly). Lisa is a board member of the non-profit association Vetenskap & Allmänhet (Public & Science) that encourages dialogue between researchers, politicians and the public. She is also on the board of the Sweden Museums Association.

Natural History Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Peter Kjaergaard, Director

Peter C. Kjærgaard is Director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and Professor of Evolutionary History at the University of Copenhagen. He oversees three museum sites, including the national Botanical Garden and the largest museum collection in Denmark with 14 million specimens. He is in charge of the largest Danish museum project for 150 years with a new natural history museum in central Copenhagen, combining 15,000 m2 in completely renovated old buildings with 15,000 m2 in new buildings, including new collection facilities, laboratories, offices, and 7,000 m2 new permanent galleries for exhibitions. Before arriving in Copenhagen in 2015 he was leading a research centre for human evolution at Aarhus University. As a researcher he has held a series of fellowships at some of the leading universities in Britain, France, and the United States; Oxford University, University of Cambridge, École normale supérieure, Paris, Harvard University, and University of California, Los Angeles.

Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Katrin Vohland, Director 

Dr. Katrin Vohland is Director General of the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (NHM Vienna), Austria, since June 2020. Before, she was head of the Research Department “Museum and Society” at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Research (MfN), Germany. Her main research interest is in the interface between science - especially biodiversity science - and different public audiences. She coordinated the German Network for Biodiversity Research (NeFo) and investigated how scientific knowledge can be mainstreamed into policies, exemplified by IPBES. Katrin is also very active in developing citizen science as an integrative approach. She chaired the German citizen science platform including the development of quality criteria, she was chair of the European scientific network of the COST Action “Citizen Science to promote creativity, scientific literacy, and innovation throughout Europe“, and initiated EU-Citizen.Science which builds capacity for Citizen Science in Europe.

Senckenberg Naturmuseum, Frankfurt, Germany

Brigitte Franzen

Dr. Brigitte Franzen is an art historian and cultural scientist with a focus on museum and exhibition history and theory as well as landscape theory. Since 2021, she has served as the Director of the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt. From 2015 to 2021, she was the chairwoman and CEO of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation, which is affiliated with 28 museums and institutions of fine arts and archaeology worldwide. Prior to that, she headed the Ludwig Forum for International Art in Aachen. She has curated major international exhibition projects such as "sculpture projects muenster 07," the international reference project for Art in Public Spaces, and most recently the exhibition "The Cool and the Cold," a juxtaposition of Soviet and US Cold War art on display in the Gropius-Bau in Berlin in 2021. In the course of her career, she founded several archives: the "sculpture projects archive" (since 2005), the "Video Archive" of Ludwig Forum for International Art (since 2010), and the "Ludwig Archive" (since 2017). Currently, she is also responsible for the archive of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. Franzen describes her approach as "research-based curating." Understanding museums as non-university research institutions and realizing research-driven exhibition projects is of special concern to her. At the same time, she considers museum narratives to be experimental, visual, spatial, and transdisciplinary, and she conceives museums as "third" or "other" places of participation and involvement.

Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany

Johannes Vogel, Director

Johannes Vogel is Director General at the Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Research and Professor for Biodiversity and Public Science at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He is President of the European Citizen Science Association and advises the EU Commission and the German Federal Government. His interests are democracy and innovation, the role of museums in science and society, public engagement with science, open science, science policy and nature. He received his doctorate in genetics from the University of Cambridge, subsequently worked at the Natural History Museum in London and took up his appointments in Berlin in 2012.