Pursuing museum accreditation can be a daunting prospect. But accreditation not only increases a museum’s credibility and value to its community and peers, it helps ensure the longevity of collections, it reinforces the museum’s education and public service roles and promotes ethical behavior. Something we should all strive for, don’t you think?
As many of you know, AAM has recognized museum excellence through accreditation for over 45 years. A mark of distinction in and of itself!
Three times every year the Accreditation Commission, a group of 9 museum leaders from across the country, gathers to review and accredit large and small institutions assessing museums against the standards. They have a difficult but enjoyable task and in the end, they get to inform a group of museums that their hard work has paid off!
Recently, I reached out to several executive directors of newly accredited museums to get feedback on why they chose to pursue accreditation.
To start us off, I posed 3 questions to Nancy Johnson, Executive Director of the newly accredited Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, WA.
1. What does accreditation mean to you personally and/or to your museum?
Accreditation provided our organization an opportunity to take a comprehensive and in-depth look at every aspect of our institution. Our process started with a very valuable reflection on where we started and where we are today to help us understand the key core competencies that have been a part of the journey.
As we preceded through the many facets of the accreditation process it validated those things we are doing well, revealed areas where we needed to improve and gave us a chance to identify areas that are essential to build upon for future success. Many people were involved at so many different levels, which was an amazing part of the experience. Feedback from those who participated clearly indicated appreciation regarding involvement and a heightened awareness of the benefits associated with comprehensive strategic institutional planning.
Everyone – including our Board, staff, volunteers, donors and community members wants to ensure that Imagine Children’s Museum will be here for generations to come. We believe accreditation is one of the most valuable processes an institution can undertake to ensure long-term viability and sustainability that is vibrant and evolving. Imagine Children’s Museum has received many awards over the years, which we have been honored to receive. However, because accreditation is such a rigorous and impactful process it truly was one of our greatest all-time organizational achievements!
2. Is there anything you wish you’d known before embarking on the process?
Time is a major factor in achieving accreditation. As a result of talking with accredited institutions, we were aware of the rigors of the process. We also knew going in that we didn’t want to do only what was required, we wanted to use this as the time to build our institution for the future.
While we were aware from the start that this process would be demanding, we recognized its potential as a valuable organizational building opportunity. The actual amount of time required to do it well was beyond what we had envisioned. For us, it wasn’t about the time needed from one person, but from many including the board, staff and community members. It takes time to involve the many people that truly make the process impactful, process information along the way, address challenges, and make revisions that are needed to accomplish the desired end results.
3. What is one thing you’d like to share about your museum? One thing you wish everyone knew about your museum?
Imagine Children’s Museum is truly a story of a grassroots effort that through vision, determination, and planning is now a vital community resource. Over the years our nonprofit organization has taken what appeared to be insurmountable challenges and through perseverance and ongoing strategic planning now thrives. We have achieved for children and families what many thought was only wishful thinking.
Imagine Children’s Museum now serves over 240,000 annually. Its playful exhibits, programs, and activities are impacting the lives of children each day. We are financially sound and AAM accredited with a goal of serving this community for generations to come.
Our wish is that every emerging, new or struggling museum sees Imagine Children’s Museum and realizes that dreams backed by a strong mission and vision, dynamic leadership and realistic strategic plans can become reality!
About the Imagine Children’s Museum
Imagine Children’s Museum promotes the power of play through interactive exhibits and activities that encourage children and their families to role play, experiment, splash, think, wander and create.