Looking Back at AIM Conference 2014

Upcycle Your Museum – make more of what you’ve got!

(posted by Natasha Hutheson)

This year’s AIM conference which took place at the Black Country Living Museum was a great success! Day 1 of the conference kicked off with an amusing talk from Matthew Tanner, Chair of Aim, who set the scene and highlighted the importance and diversity of the Independent Museum sector. This was followed by two inspiring talks, one from Diana Owen of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the other from Christopher Woodward from The Garden Museum, who demonstrated how their different organisations had taken a creative approach to becoming more self-sustaining, increasing visitor figures and income together. The rest of day 1 saw a range of presentations providing information on how to ‘Get Fit for Funding’ (Judy Niner, Development  Partners), how to use Visitor Verdict to develop depth and breadth of engagement with your audiences (Steve Mills, BDRC), and an update on VAT, SORPS and GiftAid (Julian Smith and Laetitia Ransley, Farrer and Co).

Day 2 began with a focus on Open Air Museums with Andrew Lovatt, Simon Carter and Richard Evans, Directors of Black Country Living Museum, Avoncroft Museum and Beamish respectively, giving an overview of how to keep these museums thriving in an increasingly competitive market. Simon Carter provided some excellent top-tips on easy ways to improve the overall look and feel of a site, without breaking the bank, and also emphasised how first impressions are so important.

In the afternoon of Day 2, delegates were able to attend a range of break-out sessions including workshops on Shared Leadership, Brand, Learning, Energy Action, Industrial Heritage, Trustee Recruitment and Digital Technology, including using augmented reality and apps. Delegates were also afforded the opportunity to hear from Sir Peter Bazelgette, Chair of Arts Council England and get an overview of where he sees museums in the wider cultural sector. In particular, he highlighted that other elements of the cultural sector could learn from museums in terms of community engagement. He was also impressed by the growth that independent museums were experiencing; a response to the hard work and forward thinking of those working in these organisations.

So, how did it all go? As always, people commented on how friendly the AIM conference is; it aims to have something for everyone and people certainly left with ideas to take back to their own museums, whatever their size. Once again, it provided a great opportunity for networking and for those working in museums in different parts of the UK to meet up and exchange ideas. The conference was blessed with two warm days in an excellent venue. Many delegates enjoyed the opportunity to spend their evenings on site, eating at the Workers Institute for the conference dinner and then relishing fish & chips and a pint of beer from the onsite chippy and pub on the second evening!

Feedback on this year’s conference was positive, with many feeling they had taken something useful away with them. AIM have also gathered ideas from delegates across the sector on potential themes and sessions for next year’s conference; so watch this space for information as that develops. We do already know that it will be held at the SS Great Britain in Bristol. We are also pleased to announce the winner of our conference survey prize: Gillian Mason, Curator at the Bletchley Park Trust kindly, along with many others, completed a feedback form on the conference and having had her name pulled out of the hat, has won a free day at next year’s conference. If you come along next year, it could be you!

To get a flavour of AIM Conference 2014 and an overview of presentations, please go to: http://www.aim-museums.co.uk/content/conference_papers/

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