New museum director brings scientific past


Gary Morgan’s love of museums stem from an unlikely, spiny source.

Morgan, who became the director of the MSU Museum on Monday, once studied freshwater crayfish and planned for a career as a biologist. His studies often took him outside university walls and into local museums, where the scientific resources he needed were tucked away in the museum’s collections.

“I found myself spending most of my time at museums,” Morgan said. “There was so much happening at so many levels, I thought ‘Hey, this is the place for me.’”

Gary Morgan

On Monday, Gary Morgan became the new MSU Museum director. Morgan, who is from Australia, has held various positions at museums in Australia, Africa, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates and now, the U.S. Morgan discussed his first week at MSU, his vision for the MSU Museum, football and his favorite museum collections.

Julie Avery, the MSU Museum’s former acting director, sat on the committee that hired Morgan and said his extensive administrative experience impressed committee members.

“He knows what it means to be an administrator and he’s also a visionary,” Avery said.

Morgan didn’t wander far from his native Australia until he turned 28 years old. His parents didn’t understand why he wanted to work in museums, but then again, Morgan said they didn’t know why he wanted to become a biologist.

“I don’t think my parents really understood much of what I did anyways,” Morgan said. “I think they were always happy I was doing what I wanted to do.”

In 1985, Morgan received his first job offer and became a curator at the Western Australian Museum in Perth. He spent seven years at the museum before he accepted a position as the director of collections and research at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Three years later, Morgan was on the move. He and his wife traveled by train and on foot as they ventured from China to Europe to Africa.

It was in New Zealand that Morgan said he first found himself becoming more involved in museum administration. One of his tasks while at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa included overseeing its collection management.

Morgan worked in Australia’s national parks and wildlife services for two years before he became the associate director at the Australian Museum in Sydney. He later accepted positions at the Sharjah Museums Department in the United Arab Emirates and the Kungoni Centre of Culture and Arts in Mua, Malawi, Africa.

Lora Helou, communications manager for the MSU Museum, said the addition of Morgan will give the museum the leadership needed to continue to grow.

“He’s had a lot of administrative experience,” Helou said. “That’ll be really key for us building on the foundations for the future.”

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