Former chancellor George Osborne, who is now chairman of the museum’s trustees, confirmed the news, saying it is a “critical moment for the British Museum” and that he “cannot think of anyone better placed to help take us forward”.
A former head of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), Sir Mark takes over the role from Hartwig Fischer, who resigned on August 25 after it was revealed an estimated 2,000 artefacts have gone missing.
Sir Mark said: “I am pleased and honoured to have been offered the opportunity to work with the board and with colleagues in the museum to ensure the future security of the collections and restore the reputation of this great museum.”
German art historian Fischer had previously announced in July that he would be leaving next year, but in August the museum said he would step down “with immediate effect”, later clarifying that he would vacate once an interim leadership arrangement was in place.
A police investigation is under way regarding the thefts.
It is understood that the stolen items – which include gold jewellery, semi-precious stones and glass – were taken before 2023 and over a “significant” period of time.
Mr Fischer’s deputy, Jonathan Williams, stepped back from his position at the same time as his boss announced his resignation.
Mr Osborne said: “This is a critical moment for the British Museum, and I cannot think of anyone better placed to help take us forward than Sir Mark Jones.
“His experience, grip and deep knowledge are exactly what’s needed, and I very much look forward to working together.”
Sir Mark previously worked at the British Museum as an assistant keeper of coins and medals from 1974 to 1990 before going on to become the keeper for two years.
In 1992, he became director of National Museums Scotland, which saw the opening of the National Museum of Scotland and the creation of the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle.
Sir Mark left that position in 2001 to become director of the V&A, which underwent a £120 million renewal programme during his tenure.
He has also been master of St Cross College, Oxford, from 2011 to 2016 and established an independent bookshop in Edinburgh, the Golden Hare, in 2012.
Sir Mark is also chairman of the Pilgrim Trust, the National Trust for Scotland, and arts and crafts country house Hospitalfield.
No arrests have been made in relation to thefts from the museum.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed last month that a man had been interviewed under caution on August 23.