Natural History Museum (NHM)

Client - Natural History Museum (NHM)

Key contact - Gemma Mills, Space Manager

Author - Katrina Kerr





Gemma Mills took up her role as Space Manager at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London 3 years ago in May 2016. Her role covers a wide remit, from managing all back of house space, overseeing correct usage of ARCHIBUS for the museum, to creating and feeding into multiple internal and external reports.


Gemma primarily oversees the space issues at the South Kensington site, and the Natural  History Museum’s additional site, left by the Rothchild family in Tring. This site houses the museum’s extensive bird collection.


The Kensington museum is a beautiful, world-renowned historical space, first opened to the public in 1881.  The innovative institution has evolved over the years and stands now as an estate with buildings originating from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. The most recent of these being the Darwin Centre which was erected in 2009. The role of Space     Manager deals primarily with the back of house space at the museum, with Curators of exhibitions dealing with their own storage spaces, managing them at certain temperatures and in certain conditions according to specific exhibition requirements. The wider museum space has multiple uses, ranging from commercial activity to retail, there are the permanent exhibitions and also temporary ones that rotate in two or three specific gallery spaces, where a team designs and builds the relevant sets. 


Gemma inherited the ARCHIBUS database when she first joined the museum and the system was in need of some attention. Gemma has been surveying the site to ensure that all plans on the module are correct and has begun the process of categorising the space. 





A key objective is to correct all the information to ensure accurate reporting.  Gemma is also focussing on ensuring that the data is interpretable by other colleagues who would benefit from using the information available. Gemma is solely responsible for deciding and maintaining the best use of ARCHIBUS, which means she must fully understand the system's capabilities and share this more widely across the Museum. This has been achieved through the setting up a cross-departmental Space Management Group to meet regularly and ensure the space is being maximised, utilized and recorded correctly. Approximately 50 employees across the organisation have access to the drawings, from the Directors and Operational teams to Curators who also use it to record and access information on where collections are stored. A web browser has also been set up so people can view existing rooms, but need permission to change allocated rooms and space. ARCHIBUS has also helped create consistency and capture old names and numbering systems that have been referred to from a system 50 years ago.


As is frequently the case, the maintenance of these historical buildings can be challenging and is managed on rigorous budgets, so correct recording of estate information is necessary for reporting reasons. The Space Manager has to report on wide-ranging projects from size of galleries to space for retail.


Overall Gemma reports being happy with ARCHIBUS as the museum facilities management database and her main focus is ensuring the correct and best use of the inputted data in order to be in a position to decide if the museum will need further integration, modules or applications in the future.   


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