Accreditation Visiting Committee Site Visit

Preparation

Review Your Role and Responsibilities

Review the Visiting Committee Position Description.

Travel Arrangements and Logistics

The site visit is a professional business trip that typically includes transportation (airfare and/or car rental), hotel accommodation, and meals. Generally you arrange and pay for your own transportation and lodging and then submit your expenses to the Accreditation Program staff for reimbursement using the Visiting Committee Travel Reimbursement Form. The museum is then invoiced that amount.

You and the museum should agree to all travel arrangements in advance, particularly for any unusual or very high expenses, to ensure that the plans are reasonable, appropriate, and acceptable to both parties. Asking the museum for lodging recommendations or other specific information is encouraged and some museums may offer to arrange direct billing and/or discount rates at a hotel with which they have an account.

Review All Documentation

Prior to the visit, ensure you have a thorough understanding of the institution by reading the entire self-study—questionnaire and supporting documentation—so you can compare it to the museum’s actual practices while on-site, set an appropriate visit agenda, and identify any additional materials you need to ask for in advance.

Set the Agenda with the Museum

Refer to the Characteristics of Excellence for U.S. Museums, and consult with your team member and the museum to develop an agenda that will provide you the time to:

  • Gain insight into daily operation
  • Verify the self-study and supporting documentation

  • Answer any questions or concerns that emerge from your review of the materials (especially any cited by staff in the Site Visit Report Form)

  • Visit any off-site facilities

  • Get full participation of all key museum staff and stakeholders

  • Reflect, discuss, and take notes privately together

  • Gauge what/whether the museum has made progress since its last review (if a reaccreditation review)

Conducting the Visit

Starting Off

Before arriving at the museum, get acquainted with your team member, compare notes, and outline your strategy.

Interview with the Director

  • Interview the director at the beginning of the visit
  • Set the tone for the visit by stating the purpose of your role during the visit
  • Confirm the confidential nature of the information gathered
  • Review the agenda
  • Ask questions and clarify aspects of the review and museum’s operations
  • Gather and review any new information or document
  • Emphasize that you will not offer any recommendations or discuss your opinions about the Commission’s decision

Interview with Staff & Governing Authority

Meet with key staff and members of the governing authority (individually and/or as a group depending on size and time). These interviews must be thorough and candid and should take place in private, without the director present, to provide an opportunity for open discussion.

Tour all Facilities

Visit all public and behind the scenes spaces; schedule time to visit off-site storage facilities or branch/satellite sites.

Exit Interview

Always schedule an exit interview. During the exit interview, ask for the director’s observations about the process, verify that the factual information you gathered is accurate and describe the Visiting Committee’s general observations, citing any areas of significant concern you have. Remind the director that the Commission is the final decision maker and will use the Site Visit Report in conjunction with the museum’s other materials.

Final Team Meeting and Your Confidential Advisory Comments to the Commission

Before leaving, develop a consensus with your team member about the team’s conclusion(s) and discuss what you want to include in the Confidential Advisory Comments section of the Site Visit Report Form.

The Advisory Comment section is where you can candidly give your opinion/assessment of the museum’s overall accreditability, capacity and sustainability, conveyed only to the Accreditation Commission. Include details you want the Commission to know but that will not appear in the body of the report.

Tip: Shortly after the end of the visit, keep your ideas fresh by writing down your initial observations in the Site Visit Report Form to be edited later with your team member.

Site Visit Report Form

  • Reports are due 3 weeks after the site visit occurs.
  • The standardized report form is a tool for the Visiting Committee to easily appraise the operations of a museum, particularly its adherence to the Core Standards (Characteristics of Excellence for U.S. Museums). It ensures that all museums are assessed using the same criteria and that the Accreditation Commission is provided with a thorough analysis of all areas of a museum’s operations so they can make an objective and well-informed decision.
  • Completing the report soon after the visit will keep your memories fresh. As time elapses, other priorities begin to claim your attention, and the freshness of your memory about the details decreases.
  • Be completely candid and detailed in your description of major or minor concerns, but diplomatic and respectful in the phrasing.
  • Reminder: do not include any advice on what to do, or how to do it.
  • The Site Visit Report Form will be sent to the museum following the Commission’s review, so a complete and balanced report based on specific observations, critical thinking, and a collegial approach will contribute to the institution’s growth and development.
  • Call the Accreditation Program staff if you need any help completing the report (e.g., need guidance on whether to check ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the form, or the best way to approach an area of major concern, etc.)

Submitting the Site Visit Report Form

Proof-read the report to ensure there are no missed check-boxes, spelling/grammar errors or typos.

Submit a Word version of the report directly to Accreditation Program staff or to accreditation@aam-us.org.

Please return the completed Site Visit Report Form on time (due 3 weeks after the visit). If you need additional time, please contact the Accreditation Program staff as soon as possible. Lateness may result in the museum getting bumped to a later Accreditation Commission meeting agenda, delaying its final decision by several months.

Afterward, Program staff or Accreditation Commissioners may contact you with questions about the report or the visit.

Handling the Self-Study Materials

Maintain the integrity of the Self-Study materials and email any key documents you received on site directly to Accreditation Program staff.

After the Commission meeting at which the museum is reviewed, you will receive a copy of the Commission’s official decision letter. Once that happens, please destroy any remaining materials or notes you have from the visit and remember to maintain the confidentiality of the decision and the museum’s information.