After nearly three decades under the direction of Jeff Chapman, the seasoned director will retire and director of the National Museum of Natural History of Chile Claudio Gómez is set to take his place at the McClung Museum.
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor David Manderscheid announced Gómez’s appointment Monday, adding that Chapman will remain in the position until Gómez’s start date on September 1. Gomez will be the first Jefferson Chapman Executive Director, a position named in honor of the work of the current director.
“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 told UT News. “I want to thank Dr. Chapman for his decades of excellent leadership and his continued service through his transition.”
Gómez will lead the museum, which hosts UT classes and has received five accreditations from the American Alliance of Museums and won more than 50 awards from the Tennessee State Association of Museums in two decades. Since opening in 1963, the McClung Museum has welcomed more than 1.4 million visitors.
There are 27,000 objects in the arts and culture collections at the museum, as well as millions of specimens in archeology, paleoethnobotany and malacology collections.
In Chile, Gómez oversaw an 140 percent increase in museum visitors, with the museum serving more than a million people last year. Gómez also renovated a nearly 24,000 square foot area of new exhibits that focused on indigenous peoples and ecosystems, as well as audio in different language and the first mobile app for a Chilean museum.
“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.”
Chapman oversaw the museum’s growth during his 29-year tenure as museum director. He transitioned into the director position in 1990 after serving as a research associate professor in the Department of Anthropology.
“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.”