Vesterheim Accreditation Renewed by the American Association of Museums
The American Association of Museums (AAM) has informed Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum that AAM has renewed the museum’s accreditation. It is impressive that Vesterheim was among the first museums accredited in 1971, but it’s more impressive that it now has been reaccredited three times.
“This reward is recognition that Vesterheim is a national treasure, and all of the Decorah community can be proud,” Steven Johnson, Vesterheim’s Executive Director, said.
“Receiving our reaccreditation is wonderful news, and a credit to the entire staff for their professional and capable stewardship on behalf of the museum,” Sonja Peterson, Vesterheim’s Board Director, added.
Many businesses and institutions adhere to national standards, and museums are no exception. Museums voluntarily measure their own performance using bench marks of national standards and best practices. The bench marks also help policy makers, media, philanthropic organizations, donors, and members of the public assess museums’ achievements.
Accreditation is essential if a museum is to be professionally respected and is influential in attracting funding. Accreditation is a widely recognized seal of approval that brings national recognition to American museums, regardless of size or location. Since the first museums were accredited in 1971 (Vesterheim among them), the AAM Accreditation Program has recognized museums’ commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards, and continued institutional improvement.
According to the latest count, there are 17,500 museums in the United States. Of those, only four percent, or 776 museums, have been accredited by the AAM. Of the accredited museums, 140 are located in the Midwest —19 in Iowa. Most accredited museums are art or history museums, but there are also zoos, arboretums, and science centers. Most accredited museums are private/non-profit, have a full-time staff of 1-15 people, and a budget of 1 to 3 million dollars.
Vesterheim’s renewal follows a lengthy and exhaustive self-evaluation submitted to AAM in November 2007 and a site visit by AAM representatives in February 2009. The self-study application submitted in November 2007 included answering 63 pages of questions, preparing 49 documents, lists, or charts to attach, and including photographs of facilities, collections, exhibitions, and live interpretive activities
The self-study required the efforts of board members, and all of the staff, who measured square footage of buildings, compiled financial and visitor information, described programs, and defined community and audience.