Transforming the Thinktank Shop

Well hello there and welcome to my first Birmingham Museums Labs blog! If you’ve landed here directly, why not give our CEO Zak’s introduction to BMT Labs a read, it’ll give you some useful context on what to expect from content in this space!

In the coming weeks I’ll be writing about our project to transform one of our gift shops. It will mostly be a journey in pictures so you can see the development process.

Where to start?

We were (exceptionally grateful) recipients of the Culture Recovery Fund and some of the work we were able to do as a result was reshaping the exit & gift shop at Thinktank, and relocating our entrance. We had two overarching goals – increase our financial sustainability and create a covid secure (but future proof) customer journey.

First, a bit about Thinktank, Birmingham’s award winning science museum…

From steam engines to talking robots, Thinktank has over 200 hands-on displays on science and technology. Housed inside the Millennium Point building you will find four floors of hands-on exhibits and historical collections. Including MiniBrum, a new interactive gallery for under 8s, a new 4k Planetarium and our popular Science Garden. Last year we were thrilled to welcome the Duchess of Cambridge to MiniBrum and as a result we’ve now featured in Vogue (which made my week!).

Thinktank attracts in the region of 250,000 visitors per annum. The majority of our customers are families and school groups. There is one shop in the building, located at the exit on the second floor. The current shop broadly remains in its original 2001 design. It’s unsurprisingly looking very tired, outdated and no longer on brand. Brace for some “before” pictures:

As you can see, this retail unit really does not reflect or represent the much-loved visitor experience that the museum itself delivers. We wanted to refresh the space to better reflect the fun, unique and family friendly museum that it relates to, extending the visitor experience, modernising the shopping experience and drawing inspiration from the collection and themes of the museum. We were also committed to ensuring that our new and improved retail space embodies our values and helps us demonstrate that science is for everybody.

Earlier I mentioned we had two overarching goals; financial sustainability and being covid secure (but future proof). Underneath those goals sit a whole host of more detailed objectives. I’m sure the financial objectives (particularly to increase conversion and ATV) are unsurprising to you if you’re reading this blog but something else we really wanted to ensure was that the shop furniture reflected our values of sustainability and used environmentally sustainable materials.

To celebrate the past, we must protect the planet’s future.

We believe that statement wholeheartedly, which is why we’re on a journey to do more for the environment. I’ll do another blog and share more on this soon.

If you’re interested in finding out more, stay tuned for updates!

Hello World!

Welcome to Birmingham Museum Trust‘s labs blog. If you have found our blog you are special and join a small group of fans interested in tinkering in the museum space.

Most museums have “serious” places for general public communication. Places where we make announcements, check our grammar and show off something shiny that we are confident works.

The labs blog is our place to share our internal sketchbook and ship work early that may still be in development. We will share ideas and progress on topics including digital, organisational transformation, community led research approaches and anything else we can think of. We can safely post things on here that may not yet be ready for large scale attention because we know you understand that trying new things can be messy. Sometimes we may post how we’ve made mistakes or failed in an attempt to be open and transparent.

We hope you found what you were looking for in this blog, do get in touch and join us as we make a ruckus.

Take care for now

Zak Mensah
Co-CEO of Birmingham Museums Trust