Categories: Heritage Industry News

Published on 23/06/2018

As a recent Association of Independent Museums Associate Supplier member, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go down and view their annual conference. The only problem is I hadn’t left much time to plan and prepare for my trip down there so it was a bit of a rush to get all of my work done in time, book a hotel and get everything else sorted. It was all a bit last-minute but as it turned out this all added to the excitement and anticipation of my little adventure.

I had previously attended the Museums and Heritage expo in London, but this was my first ever heritage themed conference and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. One thing I did know was it was held at the British Motor Museum in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare and home to many amazing historical buildings and a fantastic landscape.

The countryside is very flat but there is something special about it and as I drove down there, I imagined myself living in one of the lovely thatched houses, perhaps when I retired (if retirement is still a thing then). The thought of taking up watercolours popped into my mind, it really is an inspiring place to visit.

The team at AIM were incredibly helpful in securing me a last minute ticket and their friendly faces were there to greet me at the start of the conference (thank you so much Helen and Sassy and the rest of the team!). This is rather fortunate because I was akin to a rabbit stuck in the headlights! The thing is, I have been running a successful web design studio for over 18 years, I am very confident in my ability to lead a web design team and deliver fantastic websites to happy clients. I’m also very confident about delivering specifically to the heritage sector, however I will be the first to admit that I am on a journey of learning at the moment - I want to understand the people within the heritage sector better so that I can best serve them with Heritage Creative. As I arrived I am faced by hundreds of experts in the field of heritage and museums and I was a little overwhelmed to say the least, so AIM’s friendly smiles and gentle, reassuring words were hugely appreciated.

The morning talks inside the British Motor Museum were fascinating. I have to admit, I was dubious of how useful to me they would be. I did think perhaps they would help me understand some of the issues museums have to face, but I was surprised to learn a lot more than that. One thing that interested me on a personal level was the fact that two of the three guest speakers had come from less than ideal backgrounds and, much like myself, had been through the foster care system. There is this wrong assumption that people in the heritage sector are oldworldy and frankly rather posh. I saw very little of that - rather people with a passion for what they do, people that had spent their lives learning and exploring their interests and that had fallen into their current successful careers from years of honing their skills around those interests.

The highlight for me was the evening social event at Compton Verney. I was again dazzled, and assumed my previous rabbit-in-the-headlights state, more so because of the astounding, grandiose nature of the building and grounds. This was no accident and I was feeling the desired effect of the 18th Century landscape architect, Capability Brown. As I arrived I was served champagne which helped settle my nerves ever so slightly, however for a while I just stood there, alone, surrounded by so many people. Then, kindly, one of the guys from Artelia, one of the sponsors for the event, took pity on me and engaged me in conversation. We were quickly joined by a young lady who insisted on introducing me to all of her friends who were various directors, CEOs and employees from museums around the country. Together we had a lovely meal and discussed all things from heritage, museums to Monty Python! It was a fantastic evening cut short by the early arrival of my taxi. I have to say at this point I felt a little like Cinderella getting back into her pumpkin carriage before the stroke of midnight. I very quickly said my goodbyes and went back to my hotel. The contrast between the Compton Verney manor house and my little travelodge styled hotel room was jarring to say the least. Next time, I’m going to book early!

I had planned to stay over an additional night and attend the Friday social event but due to work and home commitments I sadly had to go home a little early. I have to say though that the whole event for me was wonderful and I am so reassured by the kindness and decency of the people I met that day and I’m feeling more confident than ever about the prospects for Heritage Creative. If you are in the heritage sector I strongly recommend you have a look at AIM and what they can offer - I’ve already gained so much and I've been a memeber for less than a week!

Harry O'Connor

Director of Heritage Creative, Harry has been in the web design industry for nearly 20 years.