Auckland Museum head quits suddenly

Vanda Vitali
Vanda Vitali

Auckland War Memorial Museum's controversial director Vanda Vitali has resigned suddenly.

Dr William Randall, Chairman of the Auckland Museum Trust Board, announced today that by mutual agreement Dr Vanda Vitali had resigned as Director of the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

In a statement Vitali said that she was proud of what she had acheived at the museum, but that "the Board’s vision and mine are diverging".

"It is appropriate that a new Director is appointed to see the Museum through the next phase of its development." Vitali said.

“Aucklanders are coming back to their Museum again, enjoying the exhibitions and programmes, and participating in informed debates on major scientific and cultural topics."

She will finish work at the Museum on 9 April.

Randall said that Vitali had chose to finish at the museum "for a variety of reasons".

Randall said an interim Director would be named shortly and a search to identify a successor would begin immediately.

Vitali caused a storm last year when she clashed with the family of the late Sir Edmund Hillary over the use of his papers.

In his will, Sir Edmund had left the museum a collection of writings, diaries and photographs, but a row erupted over a clause which allowed the siblings ready access to the material.

In May last year, Mountaineer Graeme Dingle, a close friend of Sir Edmund Hillary, accused the Auckland War Memorial Museum of bullying Hillary's children over his legacy.

Peter Hillary has said at the time that Vitali, "is very difficult to deal with".

He said he had repeatedly asked Vitali to have a cup of coffee and talk the matter over, but she had refused.

Peter and Sarah Hillary are going to the high court to keep control of the papers and photographs which the museum claims it can publish without their consent.