Each year, AIM National Conference hosts an impressive line-up of speakers and heritage experts who give talks and lead breakout sessions on a wide variety of topics that are relevant to independent museums. This year’s conference – which runs June 18 – 20 at ss Great Britain in Bristol – is no different, and with thirty speakers and twelve breakout sessions taking place, we have decided to highlight some of the speakers in a new series of interviews over the coming weeks to help give you a taste of what to expect this year.
On the Friday afternoon of conference this year is a talk by Kevin Moore, Director of the National Football Museum in Manchester, entitled ‘Scoring with Visitors and Netting the Rewards’ and Kevin will be sharing his ideas on how to maximise your visitor experience along with top tips for generating income from your visitors. With over 480,000 visitors each year, the National Football Museum is one of the most popular museums in the North West and Kevin will be imparting some of the ways that the museum engages with its many visitors.
Kevin has been Director of the National Football Museum since the beginning of the project in 1997. He is an experienced museum professional of international stature. He is regularly invited to give papers at museum conferences around the world, and has published a number of major books about museums, including the internationally acclaimed Museums and Popular Culture, Museum Management and Management in Museums. Kevin is chair of the Sports Heritage Network, the organisation of the UK’s sports museums, libraries and archives, which is recognised as an important Subject Specialist Network by Arts Council England. He is also a Fellow of the RSA.
A staunch supporter of AIM Conference, Kevin is an intelligent, witty and charismatic man who deeply cares about the independent museum sector and he enjoys AIM conference for its social aspects and for the opportunity it gives him to meet sector colleagues. He is the sort of chap that you can easily imagine staying up with into the small hours and chatting to about museum sector topics and we are sure that his talk will be a sell-out.
AIM caught up with Kevin over the phone, and in-between some football related nostalgic chat, we discovered that for him AIM Conference really is about fellowship, camaraderie and the chance to gain top tips to help your museum succeed no matter what its size.
AIM: Hi Kevin, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today and also for the football chat! Can we start by asking you what people can expect from your talk this year please?
KM: My talk will be about how to have a fantastic visitor experience and also how to maximise visitor spend at your museum. Those two things may sound like a contradiction, but if you look at the wider heritage sector and across the whole visitor attraction industry, you will see that there really is no contradiction at all. At the National Football Museum, we have free entry for visitors but we do still realistically need to raise £1 million each year alongside our core funding. Of course, our visitors don’t have to spend with us, but we provide a range of appropriate ways for them to do so if they wish. It’s been a learning process for us – and we are still learning – but one thing we have found is that people enjoy spending and many see it as part of a great day out. Maximising visitor spend is also about making the ask for donations…but it’s not only about asking, but about explaining to your visitors why their contributions are so vital. Yes, there can sometimes be embarrassment about asking – perhaps that’s a typically British affliction! – but providing good opportunities for your visitors to buy into your museum is worth it. My talk won’t just be a case study about what we are doing though, because I want to exchange ideas, open this subject up for debate and discuss with colleagues from the independent sector about how we can learn from each other to be more entrepreneurial.
AIM: What do you hope that people will take away with them from your talk Kevin?
KM: I very much hope that people will take away practical ideas and workable examples of best practice that they can apply at their own museum, no matter what its size. I really don’t want people thinking: “Well that’s great that they are doing that at the National Football Museum – but how does it apply to me?” because I want to learn from the audience too. AIM conference is always about sharing knowledge with others from all museums of all sizes. It was at AIM conference a few years ago in Manchester that I learnt one of the most valuable pieces of advice I have ever been given. I was chatting to a volunteer from a small independent museum and he said to me: “Kevin, you have a great museum, but I have a tip for you: stop leaving your coins on show in your donation boxes. Only leave the notes on display and you will encourage people to donate larger amounts and your donations will increase.” Well, I went away feeling slightly embarrassed, because that’s such a good common sense tip and I assumed that all AIM museums across the UK were already doing this apart from us! We put this into practice, and that volunteer was right – our donations did increase. So AIM conference really does have tips and ideas for everyone and I hope my talk encourages this.
AIM: Why else do you think AIM conference is useful for UK independent museums?
KM: It’s a brilliant conference for so many reasons. All the talks and papers are carefully chosen and are practical and full of advice that you can immediately implement. I always take a lot of notes at AIM conference and I know that this year will be the same. I also enjoy the fellowship, the social aspect of conference and the chance to talk with others. AIM conference is a good size and it feels informal and personal so you do manage to get around and chat to everyone. Small really is beautiful.
AIM: What do you think makes independent museums so unique Kevin?
KM: Because of how they developed. Independent museums are community museums; they tended to be set up by local people who were passionate about their subject or areas and who realised that mainstream museums were not adequately covering this. The independent sector is the best thing to have happened across the whole museum industry over the past fifty years, because they cover topics and collections not covered otherwise. Sports museums are a good example of this happening. The independent sector is also unique because it’s always had to be entrepreneurial. In this time of cuts and hardship, national and local authority run museums can learn a lot from independents, as we have been generating our own income for years… tough times are nothing new to independents! We have to go into battle every single day to find funding and source new income streams.
AIM: Kevin, What are you most looking forward to about AIM conference this year?
KM: AIM conference is brilliant for meeting people and for finding out about other museums that you don’t yet know about. It’s always been a real pleasure for me meeting others from the sector – I really enjoy this aspect. AIM conference is a lot of fun too and it really can help you learn about best practice. But it’s all about the people you meet for me – I really do love attending every year.
AIM: What other talks and sessions on the schedule this year interests you?
KM: The whole schedule looks really good and very informative. There’s always sessions that run parallel with each other and you really want to visit both! But alongside the talks and sessions on collections related topics, there are sessions on legal updates, commercial optimisation, how to reduce your electric bills and even how to maximise catering income – brilliant! It’s important to stress that these aren’t peripheral topics either: they are subjects that will help you to maximise income and reduce costs. I can guarantee you will leave AIM conference full of ideas and that the cost of attending conference will be paid back tenfold thanks to all the saving and money making tips you will reap.
AIM: AIM conference is something you really look forward to each year, but what would you say to encourage others to attend Kevin?
KM: Conference is very friendly and informal, so if you are new to the sector or if your museum can only afford to send one delegate, please don’t feel intimidated because you will be made to feel really welcome. There’s such a strong sense of fellowship. AIM conference is always inspiring too and I especially enjoy hearing from people from smaller museums that are being innovative on a shoestring. I’m really looking forward to it and am very excited about AIM conference this year!
You can find out more about the National Football Museum here: National Football Museum Website
AIM would like to thank Kevin Moore and Sarah Trinder at the National Football Museum for their support
For all AIM National Conference 2015 information and for details on how to book, please visit the