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Our Senior Leadership Team
Maggie Appleton, Chief Executive Officer
Maggie was appointed CEO in October 2014. Her route to the RAF Museum began as a History Undergraduate at the University of Liverpool. From there, she has served the museum sector for 30 years. Her museum appointments began at the Royal Armouries from where she pursued her career as a social history curator, museum director and then CEO at Stevenage and Luton. For Maggie, museums are learning experiences with transformative power. ‘Museums are all about communication… they are about telling people stories; learning from the past to understand our present and inform our future.’
She described her appointment to the RAF Museum as an ‘amazing opportunity’ and one that has personal resonance for her. Her father had been an RAF serviceman during World War II. Her vision for the Museum is that every man, woman and child should understand and be inspired by the importance of the RAF.
She is clear that a variety of methods and technologies must be used to tell the RAF’s stories which she believes in so strongly. The Museum has already made many advances towards more interactive and hands on media; Maggie wants to develop these ideas further to ‘broaden our range of visitors’.
However, research work and academic endeavour are critical to support this vision. Maggie explains that RAF Museum exhibitions need to be informed by exemplary research and that the Museum should lead academic debates. In Maggie’s view, museums have a responsibility to ‘challenge people’ and offer ‘layered interpretations of our history’.
Volunteers, and their contribution to the Museum, feature greatly in Maggie’s thinking. She sees their role as ‘developing and growing’ and describes how she has been ‘bowled over’ by the way volunteers have added to the visitor experience at both sites. ‘I want to say thank you to all volunteers and staff for all their involvement and real commitment to the Museum. Without people’s continued support we cannot achieve all that we need to do.
In 2012 Maggie was awarded the MBE for her services to Museums and Heritage and, in the same year, she was included in the Independent on Sunday’s ‘Happy List’, its annual celebration of 100 people who make Britain a better and a happier place to live.
In 2018, Maggie was appointed President of the UK’s Museum’s Association. Previous public positions have included six years (2010-16) as a Committee Member for the Heritage Lottery Fund and three years (2015-18) as the Co-Chair of the Women Leaders in Museums Network.
Karen Whitting, Director of Content and Programmes
Before joining the RAF Museum team in early 2014, Karen Whitting was working for the Royal Armouries as Head of Creative Programmes. This included leading a diverse project team on behalf of both the Armouries and Historic Royal Palaces to re-display collections in the iconic White Tower at the Tower of London. Her first exhibition at the Royal Armouries was ‘Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill’, in 2009, which celebrated the 500th anniversary of Henry’s accession to the throne. The five year re-development culminated in a new exhibition of the ‘Line of Kings’ – the oldest visitor attraction in the world, first shown to visitors as early as 1652.
Museums are Karen’s second career to date: prior to working in museums Karen worked in the theatre for 15 years in stage, production and company management for repertory companies such as the West Yorkshire Playhouse, opera companies such as Glyndebourne and even spent a year working at the Millennium Dome on a show that involved over 200 performers and technicians.
In her current role Karen is responsible for leading the Public Programmes and Collection teams, working alongside the other senior managers and the Museum’s Trustees to develop and deliver the Museum’s strategic vision and plans. Her focus is on telling the story of the RAF for all the Museum’s audiences, both those who are able to visit its Hendon or Cosford sites and those who might access this story through the Museum’s websites, social media, publications or lectures.
Marguerite Jenkin, Director of Finance and Resources
Marguerite Jenkin joined the RAF Museum in August 2017 and has wide-ranging experience of managing change and strategy development to improve performance in both commercial and not for profit sectors, with a focus on bringing a creative, commercial and pragmatic approach to maximise funds and target resources available to meet strategic objectives. She has worked in a wide variety of charity, government, media and cultural organisations, most recently as Finance & Commercial Director for Bristol Music Trust (leading the transformation of Colston Hall and Bristol Plays Music), but previously as the finance and business lead for BBC Radio 3, BBC Orchestras & BBC Proms, BBC Radio 5 Live, and the National Gallery Company, in addition to a variety of consultancy roles across the sector. She is also a history graduate fascinated by people’s individual stories and experiences and their power to inspire, as well as a qualified leadership coach and counsellor, with a particular interest in investment in people to support organisational change and success.
Barry Smith, Director of Visitor and Commercial Development
Barry joined the RAF Museum in January 2018 to lead the development of its commercial, visitor experience and marketing functions. His role is to build the museum’s retail, catering, events and other business functions in order to provide more balance to its funding streams. Prior to joining the museum, Barry held leading commercial roles at the Imperial War Museums and British Library and comes with significant experience of developing commercial business within the cultural sector.