Skip to content

Accreditation Program and COVID-19: FAQs and Guidance

Updated July 22, 2020

The Accreditation Program is exercising some flexibility when it comes to deadlines and process issues for museums that are currently in review or due to start their reaccreditation this year. Schedule changes will be made in consultation with your Program Officer—so please reach out to them with any questions or concerns.

However, the Accreditation Commission does expect that accredited museums are pursuing alternative ways to continue to carry out their missions and serve the public within the context of available resources; align with the ethical values of the field; and operate in the spirit of the Core Standards, even if how this is being accomplished looks very different than it did a few months ago.

Read the April 16, 2020 Message from the Accreditation Commission Chair.

Schedules and Deadlines

If your Self-Study is due in 2020:
If you have any concerns about your ability to meet your deadline, work with your Program Officer to discuss what options and adjustments are needed and available based on your particular situation. Museums are encouraged to keep to their original Self-Study deadline then adjust the timing of the site visit, rather than pushing back the entire review process from the start. Not all museums will need or be granted an extension. Depending on the progression of the pandemic, perhaps only your site visit will be delayed.

We acknowledge that your operational data (attendance, revenue, hours open, staffing) for the current year will be impacted and may not be easily quantified by the time the Self-Study is submitted.  You will have the opportunity to update your materials and the Visiting Committee prior to the site visit.

Site Visits:
Reaccreditation site visits have either been delayed or converted to virtual visits.  For some accredited museums, an in-person visit is still necessary, so your Program Officer will work with you and your Visiting Committee to reschedule the in-person dates.

For first-time applicant museums, we are trying to retain in-person visits, so have extended the visit window through April 15, 2021. Coordinate with your Program Officer.

Virtual visits follow a similar format as an in-person visit, with meetings conducted via the digital platform of the museum’s choice.

Based on the in-person or virtual visit schedule, the timeline for when your museum will be reviewed by the Commission will also be adjusted (October 2020, February 2021, or June 2021).

These shifts are all aimed at reducing health risks to volunteer Peer Reviewers and museum staff.

We acknowledge that your operational data (attendance, revenue, hours open, staffing) in the Self-Study may be dramatically different by the time of your visit. You will provide an update directly to your Program Officer and Visiting Committee one week before the visit. Your Visiting Committee will also review the museum’s current state during the visit.

If you have a Tabling Report due in August or December 2020:
The museum’s report will still be reviewed by the Commission at its regularly scheduled October 2020 and February 2021 meetings, so please email reports to your Program Officer by the due date. Talk to your Program Officer if you have concerns about meeting the deadline to submit the report – short extensions of a few weeks may be arranged.

If you are submitting a Progress Report, it should detail the impacts of the pandemic on the museum’s ability to address the tabling issues. If you are submitting a Final Report and will be unable to fully address the tabling issues due to the COVID-19 crisis’ impact on the museum, provide the details, any drafts of plans or documents of what was to be completed as part of the tabling, and a description of when and how the tabling issues will be completed.

The Commission will take all into account when reviewing the museum’s final report. It will make the decision on how the museum moves forward in the process, possibly granting extra time.

Eligibility Requirements and Standards

Staffing levels:
During this time of economic upheaval, your museum may have to make very tough staffing decisions, including furloughs or layoffs. The Accreditation Commission is temporarily suspending the eligibility requirement that there be at least one paid professional on staff. Review and consider the Retrenchment and Downsizing Guidelines, and understand that furloughs, layoffs, or otherwise reducing your workforce does not automatically negatively impact your museum’s accredited status.

Regarding the number of hours open (min. 1,000 hrs/year):
The Accreditation Commission will not be enforcing this minimum eligibility requirement. We know that nation-wide closures will be reflected in your reported attendance and revenue figures as well. See the Alliance’s resources on using digital platforms to remain connected to audiences during closures.

I can’t meet XYZ standard – will I lose my accreditation?
Likely not in the short term. Remember that the Core Standards articulate end results; how you meet them may be different than a year ago. Remember that museums can meet them in a variety of ways and the Commission considers the context in which the museum is being reviewed. The Accreditation Commission is not planning on lifting or amending any of the Core Standards or Core Document Required Elements.

Use of Deaccession Proceeds
AAM’s position on the use of proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned objects remains unchanged. The AAM’s Code of Ethics for Museums states that funds can only be used for acquisition of new collections or direct care. Per AAM’s Direct Care of Collections: Ethics, Guidelines, and Recommendations, “The Alliance recommends that a museum’s governing authority place the funds realized from the sale of deaccessioned objects in a segregated or identifiable account. In keeping with the spirit of the ethical principles related to deaccessioning and use of funds, the Alliance of Museums also recommends that the earnings on this segregated or identifiable account be used only for acquisition or direct care. These practices should be stipulated in a museum’s collections management and financial policies.”

Endowment draws:
The Commission understands that museums may need to temporarily exceed their established endowment draw thresholds in order to keep the museum operational. However, the Commission expects that museums have a plan in place for how much and how long this will continue; and eventually how the drawdown amount will be returned to normal. Tapping into your endowment’s principal or corpus should be a last resort; do not use permanently restricted funds. Document additional uses with a board resolution as a short-term measure, and communicate with your state attorney general with any questions.

Retrenchment or Downsizing

Retrenchment and Downsizing Guidelines

AAM Resources on Financial Retrenchment

The Alliance has also created COVID-19/Coronavirus Financial Relief and Resources page for the field


If your 2020 Annual Accreditation Participation fee is overdue:
Museums that were billed a 2020 Annual Participation Fee were to have paid it by January 30, 2020. If yours is overdue, the Alliance asks that you make payment no later than July 30th.  Accreditation Program Officers can take credit card payments over the phone.

AAM Member-Only Content

AAM Members get exclusive access to premium digital content including:

  • Featured articles from Museum magazine
  • Access to more than 1,500 resource listings from the Resource Center
  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
Log In

We're Sorry

Your current membership level does not allow you to access this content.

Upgrade Your Membership

Subscribe to Field Notes!

Packed with stories and insights for museum people, Field Notes is delivered to your inbox every Monday. Once you've completed the form below, confirm your subscription in the email sent to you.

If you are a current AAM member, please sign-up using the email address associated with your account.

Are you a museum professional?

Are you a current AAM member?

Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription, and please add to your safe sender list.