The Children's Museum of Memphis (CMOM) has achieved accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition for a museum. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, donors, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public.
"Now that we have met the highest of standards in our industry, it is our commitment to set new standards," said Richard Hackett, CMOM chief executive officer. "It's not about the recognition of a very talented staff, dedicated board and generous donors, it's all about the Children*. We are not finished - we have a lot more to announce. We are not perfect YET!"
AAM Accreditation is the field's primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation, and public accountability, and earns national recognition for a museum for its commitment to excellence in all that it does: governance, stewardship, public programs, financial stability, high professional standards, and continued institutional improvement. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for 35 years, AAM's Museum Accreditation program strengthens the profession by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely, and to provide the best possible service to the public.
"In the late 1980s the volunteers working on creating a Children's museum in Memphis envisioned a place that would 'spark an imagination and light up a mind,'" said Harriet McFadden, one of the original founders of CMOM. "Our goal was to have the museum reflect the highest standards for interactive learning and to be one of the top 10 in the country. With the accreditation by AAM the current leaders at CMOM have made this dream come true!"
What is even more incredible is that out of the 400 Children's museums, The Children's Museum of Memphis becomes the 8th Children's museum to be accredited - which places CMOM in the top 2% of all Children's museums. CMOM's accreditation is for 10 years and will need to be renewed in 2024.
"Accreditation assures the people of Memphis that their museum is among the finest in the nation," said Ford W. Bell, president of the Alliance. "As a result, the citizens can take considerable pride in their homegrown institution, for its commitment to excellence and for the value it brings to the community."
Accreditation is a rigorous process that examines all aspects of a museum's operations. To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. AAM's Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, review and evaluate the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation. While the time to complete the process varies by museum, it generally takes three years.
"I have been a member of the museum's staff for 16 years and the liaison for the accreditation project for the past four years - I am elated by the news," said Randy McKeel, CMOM chief financial officer. "I have seen the museum evolve over the last decade, and I know all the details of the organization financially and operationally, and the quality of the exhibits has never been better. I never doubted one bit that we would be accredited. We are conscientious on our financials, donor accountability, transparency and fiduciary responsibility. All of this weighed heavily in the accreditation process. We monitor our financial position daily."
CMOM's site visit was conducted in April 2012. At that time the museum was evaluated by Gillian Thomas, president & chief executive officer of the Miami Museum of Science & Planetarium, and Amy Bartow-Melia, director of the department of public programs of the National Museum of American History - Smithsonian Institution.
"I remember eight years ago when Mr. Hackett first came to CMOM we questioned whether we could make payroll every other week," said Cliff Drake, CMOM chief operating officer. "We would rush to the bank on Monday to make the weekend deposit to make sure payroll cleared on Tuesday. Then the country went through some very difficult economic times. Hackett has helped guide the museum through these obstacles to the top."
"Our accreditation status means that our visitors can be assured that we have voluntarily taken ourselves through a rigorous self-study and evaluation to become a better organization to serve them with standards of quality that are above the norm," stated Felicia Peat, CMOM director of education & programs. "We have increased capacity by 20% for school groups by being open seven days a week, 362 days a year. We have expanded our outreach programs to underserved Children. It is an exciting time for us!"
"It's all about the Children," stated Lynn Heathcott, president of the Nineteenth Century Club, one of CMOM's largest donors. "The mission of our Club will continue to live on at The Children's Museum."
ABOUT AAM: The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With more than 17,000 individual, 3,000 institutional, and 300 corporate members, AAM is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.
Accreditation Fact Sheet
Simply, accreditation is the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
The Children's Museum of Memphis is now the 8th Children's museum to be accredited out of the 400 Children's museums that currently exist. CMOM is now in the top 2% of all Children's museums. The other seven accredited Children's museums are: Family Museum (Bettendorf, IA), Boston Children's Museum, Brooklyn Children's Museum, Discovery Place (Charlotte, NC), The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Please Touch Museum (Philadelphia), and Great Explorations Children's Museum (St. Petersburg, FL).
CMOM is now one of only 14 museums accredited in Tennessee - and only one of five museums accredited in Memphis.
There are 1,005 accredited museums in the United States. That means that just 5.75% of the estimated 17,500 museums in the country are accredited.
Accreditation is a self-motivated process; museums take it upon themselves to seek accreditation.
The process involves a thorough self-study of all museum operations - financial, governance, public programs, community engagement, collections stewardship, security, etc. This is followed by a similar study by an outside peer reviewer, a museum professional. Both studies are honest and straightforward appraisals. These two reports are evaluated by the Accreditation Commission (another group of seasoned museum professionals), at which point a decision is rendered.
Benefits of accreditation:
Accreditation is often a prerequisite for or integral to:
To be accredited signifies a museum meets and often exceeds the standards and best practices of the museum field.
Accredited museums encompass the breadth of America's museums - art, children's, history, historic sites, natural history, science and technology centers, public and botanic gardens, zoos and aquariums.
Accredited museum range from some of the world's best-known institutions - the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the California Academy of Sciences - to smaller museums in all 50 states, such as the Montana Historical Society and the North Museum of Natural History at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania.