What is an AIM Conference really like?

We are very pleased to have our first Guest Blog this week. Luanne Meehitiya talks about her first experience of an AIM Conference, in 2013 in Manchester. If you’re wondering whether National AIM Conference is for you, this gives you a great flavour of what you will get from attending. Details of this year’s conference are on the AIM Website. We can help smaller museums with Training Grants for conference fees, travel and accommodation costs.

Hi, I’m Luanne Meehitiya and this blog comes from my summary of the 2013 AIM conference for the Midlands Federation of Museums and Art Galleries, who kindly granted me the bursary that enabled me to go. The conference was a great introduction to the independent museum sector, which I had recently moved into as the Natural Science Curator at Birmingham Museum’s Trust, the largest museum trust in the country. Previous to this I worked for seven years in curation and engagement at the Horniman Museum and Natural History Museum, so had little preparation for the more entrepreneurial side of the museum sector beyond an excellent course in museum management for my Museum Studies MA at UCL.

The conference was based in Manchester at the Museum of Science and Industry in sunny June and the theme was ‘Money – that’s what I want!’ It started with a summary of AIM and the independent sector during which I was amazed to learn that there are a whopping 1215 independent museums contributing 930 million to the UK economy. Throughout the conference, I was impressed with the dynamic way that independent museum staff combine shrewdness with enthusiasm.

A major focus was on building organisational resilience within museums. Advice ranged from dealing with unpredictable finances, being aware of risks and opportunities, the importance of leadership, forming partnerships, focusing on charitable objectives, understanding your visitors and having a governance structure that protects your collections. Diverse case studies of organisations that are building their resilience included Chatham Historic Dockyards, the Fusilier Museum, Sarehole Mill, Arnos Vale Cemetery and Cogges.

Alongside this, we looked at the nitty gritty of raising finances through legacies, e-commerce, crowd funding, ACE and HLF funding and generally reducing costs and increasing revenue. I also attended a workshop on HLF funding, which was particularly useful as I am currently involved in the early stages of a bid to redisplay our natural science collections. It all contributed in myriad ways to my professional development for my AMA, as well as being the first time I (as @Luannasaurus) gave in and started conference tweeting, with interesting discussions going on at #AIM2013.

We also enjoyed a dinner at Manchester Museum surrounded by gorgeous natural science displays in the Living Worlds gallery, an evening on a canal boat with folk music and tours of the National Football Museum and People’s History Museums with candid introductions from their directors. The conference was noticeably friendly and people were happy to mingle, so I would recommend future AIM events to anyone looking to increase their museum network (even if you’re not strictly independent, like several of the delegates I met!). Almost a year later I am still benefitting from the experience and hope to be able to attend again in future.

Canal boat IMAG1622 small

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