Now in its 23rd year the two-day M+H Show at Olympia West on 29 and 30 April was free for visitors and continues to be a pivotal event for the sector. Attendees came from across the country and as far and wide as Taiwan and the Falkland Islands to see the unique mix of suppliers and expert speakers from across the spectrum of the museum and heritage sector and to see the latest innovations from suppliers.
On Wednesday morning queues began forming at the Kensington venue where supplier stands and four theatres, spread over 3,500sq m, were ready and waiting.
One of the first talks was given by John Orna-Ornstein, Arts Council England’s director of museums, who gave a sector update entitled 2015-18 and Beyond: Investing in a Strong Museum Sector. “I think it’s more and more important for people to come together. We live in a world where museums can’t operate independently, they have to rely on each other and interact with each other,” said Orna Ornstein. “The Museums + Heritage Show provides an opportunity for the trades to show their wares to the sector and for the sector to share its resources and services but it also provides an opportunity for people to come together and there’s a fantastic programme of talks and seminars which again is something we need more and more of.”
Further sector talks were given by Matthew Tanner, chairman of the Association of Independent Museums on the Entrepreneurial Museum or Heritage Organisation and Fiona Talbot, Heritage Lottery Fund’s head of museums, libraries and archives who led a talk on Taking Stock – Heritage Lottery Fund Now and Looking Forward. As well as this a series of one-on-one Ask the Expert sessions covered topics such as accessibility, visitor expectations, exhibition design and social media.
On the Wednesday morning sector resource M+H Advisor launched its redesigned website and a new annual M+H Prize, with a £1,000 fund, was run concurrently with the Show.
During the two days there was a broad range of visitors from museum directors and curators to early career professionals all looking for new products to buy and the latest information to glean. “I never get tired of learning things and there is a great cross section of people from large and small organisations,” said Andrew Lovett, director and chief executive of the Black Country Living Museum. “We use a phrase at our museum about stealing with glee – happy always to learn from people’s successes and mistakes and it always fascinates me how many war stories people have got about experiences on projects, so that’s why it’s important for us.”
On the Wednesday evening the networking continued after the show at the nearby Hand and Flower pub with @Drinksthing, which started life as #DrinkingAboutMuseums in 2013 and now encompasses the broader cultural community. Also that evening was the M+H Awards at 8 Northumberland Avenues where the winners were announced at a glittering ceremony.
Among the 150 trade stands were suppliers who specialise in multimedia guides, showcases, furniture, exhibition fit out, collection and storage, and digital photography of collections. There was also cutting edge technology on display with innovators such as Soluis Heritage who showcased the world’s first Point Cloud to Immersive Virtual Reality demonstration of the Show, Fusion GFX who presented the world’s first Sony 4K Ultra Throw Projector and Mad Pixel who create interactive Ultra Pixel HD photographs of masterpieces.
“All the experts essentially come together in one spot and you get to see the newest technologies, the newest thinking and systems,” said Sally Dixon-Smith, Collections Curator at the Tower of London part of Historic Royal Palaces. “The mixture of both that and an incredibly specialist conference alongside it, really sells it for me.”
The Museum + Heritage Show returns in 2016 and will take place at Olympia West on 18-19 May – register here.