The director of the city’s renowned Barber Institute of Fine Arts has been appointed to take over the soon-to-be-merged Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Thinktank.

Professor Ann Sumner, a former head of fine art at the Museum of Wales, will lead Birmingham’s two major museums from April and strive to boost visitors numbers.

The two city centre attractions, whose collections include the Staffordshire Hoard, a world famous Pre-Raphaelite collection and items from Birmingham’s industrial and scientific past, are being merged as part of a new Birmingham Museums Trust in a drive to cut costs.

Prof Sumner hit the headlines last year as curator of the Barber Institute’s highly acclaimed exhibition of tennis in fine art, Court on Canvas, and has been involved with many of the UK’s leading galleries and museums during a distinguished career.

She is a specialist in 17th century British portraits and miniatures, French Impressionist painting, including the art of Alfred Sisley, Pre-Raphaelite artists, especially John Brett, and the art of Wales.

She said: “I am enormously honoured to have been appointed to this exciting new role.

"The high quality and diversity of the collections which will be managed by the new Trust are outstanding, and hugely popular with the people of Birmingham and the West Midlands.

“This is a key moment for the city and the wider region, and I look forward to working with my new team and building on their recent successes.

“I have had a wonderful four and a half years working at the Barber Institute."

The current chairman of Thinktank, former city councillor Len Clark, who has been overseeing the merger, added: “I am confident that Ann will make a significant contribution to the future success of Birmingham Museums Trust.

"She has a wealth of experience and is the ideal candidate to steer the trust.”

The new trust is being created not only to take advantage of efficiencies but allow the council-owned Museum and Art Gallery also to benefit from lower rates through charitable status and apply for a wider range of grants and funds.

Both museums are undergoing major redevelopment this year with a new science garden and Made In Birmingham exhibition being created at Thinktank and a new £9 million Birmingham History Galleries due to open at BMAG later this year.

Prof Sumner was educated at the Courtauld Institute, University of London, and undertook her PhD at Newnham College, Cambridge.

She began her career at the National Portrait Gallery, London and has held curatorial positions at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Harewood House Trust, and the Holburne Museum, Bath. Prior to her appointment to the Barber Institute in October 2007, she had been Head of Fine Art at Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales, for seven years.

Her appointment has been welcomed by leading figures in the art world.

Prof Michael Sheppard, vice-principal of the University of Birmingham said: “The arts are an essential part of life at the university, and are an intrinsic element of our city.

“We are delighted that Ann’s experience, leading the acclaimed Barber Institute at the university, will now enhance the cultural landscape of the city. We wish her and the new Birmingham Museums Trust every success.”

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, welcomed the news of Professor Sumner’s appointment. He said: “Ann Sumner has demonstrated great flair and creativity as director of the Barber Institute and is a fine choice as director of the new Birmingham Museums Trust.”