Ensuring your voice is heard

AIM Director Lisa Ollerhead outlines her initial priorities as we start on the road to recovery from the pandemic.

Five and a bit weeks into being AIM’s Director feels like a good time to write my first article to members. As I’ve been telling people in meetings, I think I have a few days left in which to be ‘the new one’ and next week I have to know everything – or at least be able to do a good imitation.

It’s been an exciting few weeks. The AIM conference, just our second major virtual event, went off very successfully, thanks to the brilliant AIM team Margaret, Matt, Catrin and Helen, and of course the gone-but-not-forgotten Emma and Justeen. We hope that everyone who was able to join us enjoyed it, and are already looking forward to seeing members next year, hopefully live and in person at Port Sunlight.

Of course one of the main topics at conference was reopening, and what comes next for the museums and heritage sectors after the pandemic. Recent weeks have seen multiple announcements in every nation of the UK about what can open, when, and how visits can happen. We know that museums and heritage sites can’t wait to welcome visitors back. But we also know that for many places it isn’t an easy transition, especially for places that are opening this summer for the first time in over a year, and we’ve been supporting you to understand the rules, knowing that the priority for everyone is for staff, visitors and volunteers to feel safe and happy and enjoy themselves at your venues.

With reopening also comes AIM visits! The team are all excited to start getting out around members across the UK. My priority as the new Director is to meet and talk to as many members as possible in the coming months, to understand why you’re part of AIM, what you want from us, and what we could do even better. I know that what AIM does really well is giving you the information and help you need to run your organisations and we will be staying that same reliable source for pragmatic and real-world guidance on governance and operations.

We’ll also keep advocating for our members to funders and government. We want to make sure that your voices are heard in the decisions and changes that will be coming in the sector as part of the national recovery from the pandemic, and the needs of independent museums are understood, from the largest civic trusts to the smallest non-Accredited museums who don’t always get a seat at the table in sector-wide discussions.

And, running our grants programmes. One of the other most exciting parts of the last few weeks for me has been the launch of New Stories New Audiences, our new National Lottery Heritage Fund scheme which over the next three years will support dozens of small museums around the UK to explore their collections and display them to communities in new ways. As well as funding this scheme comes with mentorship and peer support for the museums and heritage organisations involved, helping you to share the rich and complex histories of your objects and sites in fresh ways. We’re looking forward to getting those projects started later this year.

At the same time we’re helping you to tell new stories to new audiences, helping you become more inclusive organisations welcoming diverse visitors, we’re looking at our own progress on the Tackling Inequalities plan we published last October. An update on this will be coming to members soon and we want you to hold us accountable for making sure we deliver on it, helped by the five new Board members who were appointed at the AGM held during the conference.

Please do get in touch. I want to hear from members and get your feedback on what we’re doing: I’m lisa.ollerhead@aim-museums.co.uk
and I look forward to meeting you!