David Burrill, the new Chairman of the Museum Trustees, was interviewed by Chris Yates, a Trustee of the Friends of the Museum and editor of the Friends newsletter "Sub Rosa", at HQ Int Corps. Chris explored David's background, his thoughts on the Museum in the near future and his longer-term vision.
We are most grateful to the Friends for their permission to use the question and answer text of their interview on our website.
What is your background?
I am from Blackpool, graduated from RMAS to join the Lancashire Regiment (PWV) in which I served for six years. On leaving the regiment, I joined the Intelligence Corps in 1969. I retired in 1992 at the age of 47 in the rank of colonel, my last appointment being Deputy Director of the Corps and COS of DISC, to join BAT Industries where I was able to pursue my intelligence and security calling in a business context. Whilst at BAT, I was honoured to be Deputy Colonel Commandant of the Corps for six years, and a co-opted MIM trustee. On retiring from BAT in 2006, I set up, and still run, my own company. Recently, I was approached to become Chairman of the MIM Trustee Board and was pleased to return to the active fold of the Corps family.
What skills do you bring to this job?
I am an enthusiastic pragmatist with proven military and commercial success at tactical and strategic levels. I have skills in intelligence and security at operations and leadership levels. My critical focus is on leadership and delivery.
How do you see the museum and the leadership of its trustees?
It is crucial that we do not build silos but have maximum integration and alignment. Until the 1980s, business organisations were all about profit. Now they are about profit, reputation and governance, and need to reflect those factors in their brands. It is important for the military to also project its brand. The museum reflects all that is good in a military brand, projecting history, current achievement and what it wants to be in all senses of heritage.
Why is the museum on the move?
I inherited a strategy already approved by the board. Firstly, in addition to the physical museum, wherever it may be, there must be a footprint for the Intelligence Corps wherever its HQ and training unit is. Secondly, that the museum should be relocated: more public access; not by appointment only; attractive to the widest range of visitors. These goals are justified and of benefit to the Corps and military intelligence. This relocation is a big ambition on a big scale with big funds needed; an estimate of a new building is at least £6m. That remains our goal.
Can you draw a more defined picture of the footprint?
It is still at the conceptual stage, we cant describe the physicality, and at the moment the footprint is the current Military Intelligence Museum.
So, in concept, how different will it be compared with what exists at the moment?
The commitment to the footprint, a physical presence, is absolute, a done deal. I hope that removes any concerns regarding the access for those under training. Let me choose this point to turn to another development which has received full backing from the trustees: a virtual museum. This is emphatically not to be in place of a physical museum, but in addition to it. In theory there is no restraint on the amount we could show. This virtual museum, which may be in 2D or 3D form, would link to a virtual archive. It could, and is likely to draw a global audience with all the potential benefits to brand projection and, indeed, to fundraising potential.
Is the virtual museum a requirement before a physical move?
No its not a requirement, but it is likely to become a reality before a physical move occurs, since there is nothing solid on the horizon for a physical move. The virtual museum is likely to help physical relocation because of the fundraising potential that I referred to. I believe that in six months, well know what we want: understanding design, technical capabilities, and service suppliers. The plan is for a development officer, reporting to the trustees, to manage the project. We wont understand the costs fully until the six-month research phase is completed, but I believe that these will not be prohibitive.
What about the here-and-now plans for supporting the museum?
We are immensely proud of the museum, and no one should lose sight of its immense stature. It should be cherished and managed dynamically now as in the past. Compare it with Ashford which was barely one room, then, as we moved to Chicksands, we got a campaign going under the patronage of our Colonel-in-Chief, Prince Philip, which resulted in the creation of our current museum. Despite the other initiatives, the current museum will not be neglected.
What message would you to send to the Friends of the Museum?
I have an enormous admiration for the energy and achievements of the Friends, and for their generosity in supporting the museum financially and in spirit. I believe that the Friends represent, in thought and deed, all that is good about the Intelligence Corps heritage. My thoughts on this are shared by all the museum trustees.
In conclusion, what else you would like to say?
My approach is to ensure that we as trustees get things done. When suggestions are made to us, our default response should be: Why not?
Thank you, David.