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Ashmolean's new director snubs Oxford

The new director of Oxford's Ashmolean Museum has shocked academics by resigning before he even started.

Dr George Goldner, a leading figure in the New York art world, has told Oxford University that he does not want the job after all.

The Ashmolean (right) announced in December that Dr Goldner, formerly senior curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York had been appointed director. He was due to take up the post in October when the present director, Professor Christopher White, stands down.

But Dr Goldner said yesterday that he had changed his mind and decided to stay in New York. "A variety of things, personal and professional, led to a change of heart on behalf of my wife and myself," Dr Goldner said. One was understood to be the fact that he was unable to find a suitable house in Oxford. Asked if he was dissatisfied with the homes available, he said: "There was an element of that. But I would not want to comment further."

Professor White said: "It is very sad ... Dr Goldner would have made a very good director. He had been to Oxford several times to look around. It seems it didn't work out." He said that unlike other internationally famous museums, there was no property automatically provided for the Ashmolean director.

The Ashmolean is Britain's oldest public museum, having opened in 1683, and is named after Elias Ashmole who gave the first collections.