Our Senior Management 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 25 years. Her museum appointments began at the Royal Armouries from where she pursued her career as a social history curator, at Stevenage and Luton.
Most recently she was the Chief Executive of Luton Culture, a charity that encompassed arts, libraries and community centres as well as two museums. She reflects on the central belief that has underpinned her career.
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 describes 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 share and understand the importance of the RAF.
Maggie is also clear about the main challenges to this vision. ‘We must think about how we can engage people in powerful stories.’ She responds to her own challenge immediately. ‘We must recognise how people learn in different ways’. 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 backed 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 peoples’ continued support we cannot achieve all that we need to do.
Karen Whitting, Director Public 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.
Philip Walsh, Chief Financial Officer
Phillip has worked in the Museum sector for the past ten years at the V&A and then the Wallace Collection prior to joining the RAF Museum. As Director of Finance and Operations at the Wallace Collection he was responsible for leading the Security and Gallery team and the Building and Projects team in addition to managing the IT, Human Resource and Finance functions.
As part of the senior management team in setting the strategic direction of the Museum and managing the resources available, he helped to enable the Wallace Collection, despite the difficult economic environment, achieve record visitor numbers, improve retail and corporate hire revenues, hold significant and high profile exhibitions and publish ground breaking scholarly catalogues, whilst managing an extensive programme of capital refurbishments.
As Chief Financial Officer for the Royal Air Force Museum Phillip has overall responsibility for the financial function, setting the long term financial strategy of the Museum, whilst overseeing the day-to-day management of the Museum’s accounts. In addition to this he looks after the Human Resources and Building and Services departments. As a member of the senior management team he also leads on the Museum’s Commercial Strategy and liaises with the Museum's sponsor branch within the Ministry of Defence.
John Waxman, Assistant Director London
John joins the Museum's Senior Management Team having recently arrived from the National Trust where for a number of years he was General Manager at Cliveden, one of the Trust’s busiest pay for entry visitor attractions. Prior to that, he worked in external relations, communications and advisory roles within the public environmental management sector. He is a lifelong aviation enthusiast.
As Assistant Director at the Museum’s London site John leads a Department that is responsible for ‘front of house’ activity - covering safety and security, corporate events, public on-site events and catering. His team also helps to run London's shop.
Paul Pomfret, Assistant Director Cosford
Before joining the Museum Paul spent over 5 years managing the National Trust for Scotland’s flagship property: “Culzean Castle and Country Park” whilst leading a multi-disciplinary team of over 120 and a large volunteer base. As part of the role he was fortunate to live in the castle, which he describes as a great experience….if a little cold and draughty at times.
At a time of significant financial challenges he helped develop relations with key US fundraisers which ultimately led to significant donations to the Trust. He also worked to improve the financial performance of the estate's commercial operations. To improve the visitor experience he worked to restore original features and contents to the castle and introduced new multimedia interpretation.
Prior to Paul's move into Heritage & Museums he had a first career in Entertainment and Theatre. Starting with a technical focus later developing into projects, programming, marketing and general management, Paul oversaw key stages of the £4.2M refurbishment and opening of the award winning Kings Lynn Corn Exchange.
He has always had a keen interest in aviation and first visited the Museum in London over 24 years ago and have visited Cosford several times since the opening of the National Cold War Exhibition.
As Assistant Director for Cosford Paul has direct responsibility for the site’s operational and commercial management, and also an oversight of all other areas of Cosford’s work. Strategically his role includes working with everyone involved at the Museum to deliver the Museum's development plans for Cosford.
He is also keen to help provide the environment and support needed to allow all the Museum's teams to develop both themselves and the Museum in a way that helps deliver a great experience for the Museum's visitors.