Major donor spearheads development at

Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum

1 March 2022

  • Professor Rolf Olsen to donate a six-figure sum to expand museum’s art collection and create a regionally significant art gallery for the city
  • Donation galvanises first major developments at Art Gallery & Museum in 30 years
  • Worcestershire Heritage, Art and Museums Charity set up to encourage more charitable donations

Worcester philanthropist Professor Rolf Olsen is making a significant financial donation to boost the collection of art works at Worcester Art Gallery and Museum and increase its reputation as a regionally significant art gallery.

The donation will be used to purchase new works of art and lay the foundations for a new gallery within the Foregate Street building for the City’s art collection; to be named the Shirley and Rolf Olsen Gallery in honour of his late wife, following the tradition of earlier local philanthropists like Charles Wheeley-Lea whose donation helped to fund the building of the art gallery in the 19th century.

Professor Olsen hopes his donation will not only help to create a superlative art collection but will also enhance the cultural life of Worcester and help to bring more tourists to the city. His aim is that his donation will encourage others to come forward and support the Art Gallery & Museum collections and developments.

Professor Olsen says: ” As a long-standing resident of Worcester I’m keen to play a part in its cultural development. My wish is to see the city’s art collection become regionally significant, and hopefully in turn encourage development of the Art Gallery & Museum to enable the collection to be on display all year round. I encourage others to come forward to support this exciting initiative and help to put Worcester on the map.”

Professor Olsen has also spearheaded the formation of a new charitable trust to support fundraising for the museum. Trustees include the former Head of Museums Worcestershire Iain Rutherford and Councillor Mike Johnson, former Chair of the Joint Museums Committee.

Philippa Tinsley, Head of Museums Worcestershire, the joint museum service for Worcester City and Worcestershire County Councils says: “We are extremely grateful to Professor Olsen for his very generous donation. The City Art Gallery and Museum excels at bringing nationally renowned art and artists to Worcester to be enjoyed by the city’s residents. With this donation the permanent art collection will also play its part in enhancing Worcester’s cultural offer. I am looking forward to working with the Trustees of the new charity to achieve our aims to make an even bigger impact in Worcester and beyond.”

Anyone who wishes to follow in Professor Olsen’s footsteps and give a donation should contact Philippa Tinsley, Head of Museums Worcestershire on 01905 25371, email:




About Worcestershire Heritage, Art and Museums Charity

Worcestershire Heritage, Art and Museums Charity is an independent entity set up to promote the appreciation and enjoyment of art, culture, heritage and science for the public benefit, by encouraging participation and engagement with museums and related services operated by Museums Worcestershire.


About Museums Worcestershire

Museums Worcestershire is the joint museum service of Worcester City and Worcestershire County Councils. It comprises three fantastic venues – Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, The Commandery in Worcester and The County Museum at Hartlebury Castle.

The collections and exhibitions at the museums are many and varied, covering centuries of the county’s history right up to the present day. Thousands of objects, including the historic buildings themselves, are brought to life through innovative exhibitions and events throughout the year.


About the Trustees

Professor Rolf Olsen

Before retiring, Professor Olsen was Professor of Social Work then Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham. He became an expert in the field of mental health law and was instrumental in the reform and planning of mental health legislation in the 1970s and 80s. He also served on a number of government committees of enquiry and was a first Vice-Chairman of the Mental Health Act Commission.

Rolf travelled world-wide to train governments and professional staff in mental health law. Rolf’s late wife Shirley would accompany him on these trips, and they would visit art galleries wherever they went. This encouraged Rolf’s love of art and was his inspiration to make an impact on the cultural life of Worcester, where he has lived for many years.


Iain Rutherford

Iain is a long-term resident of Worcester and worked in the museums, arts, and heritage sector for over 35 years, most recently as the first head of Museums Worcestershire from 2010 until 2017. He has also provided advice and consultancy to a wide range of organisations including international companies, charitable trusts and local authorities, and on museum projects ranging from major capital developments to recruitment and planning.

During his time at the helm of Museums Worcestershire, Iain led several large National Heritage Lottery and Arts Council England-funded development projects at all three museums, bringing in more than £1m of external funding over this time.


Mike Johnson

Mike has lived in Worcester for over 40 years and has been a City Councillor for 8 years. He has been heavily involved in the cultural life of the city, having been Chairman of the Communities Committee and Chairman of the Joint Museums Committee, during which time he oversaw the development of the museums Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2024. Prior to this Mike worked as a Management Consultant for the NHS in the West Midlands.

Mike’s aim for the Charitable Trust is to raise funds to further the success of the museums service and its collections.


Caroline Naisbitt

Caroline’s background is in business management which began over 30 years ago at Nationwide Building Society in London. Her passion and expertise lie in customer service and Caroline’s recent years have been spent working with a diverse range of organisations to support them in delivering improved experiences for their customers. She has presented internationally and is a regular judge of National Customer Service Awards.

Caroline grew up in Worcester, is very proud of the City and delighted to be a trustee of Worcestershire Heritage, Art and Museums.