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Accreditation Program and COVID-19: FAQs and Guidance

Updated April 29, 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 on a case-by-case basis 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 the Self-Study after submission, and your Visiting Committee will review the museum’s current state during the site visit.

If your Spring 2020 site visit was canceled/delayed:
Once museums are able to reopen and it is safe to travel, work with your Visiting Committee and Program Officer to reschedule it. Depending on when the site visit happens (aim for July thru December 15th), the timeline for when your museum will be reviewed by the Commission will also be adjusted to either October 2020 or February 2021.

We acknowledge that your operational data (attendance, revenue, hours open, staffing) in the Self-Study you submitted may be dramatically different now. You can provide updates directly to your Program Officer and Visiting Committee. Your Visiting Committee will review the museum’s current state during the site visit.

If your site visit is supposed to happen in July-August 2020:
If needed it can be scheduled any time through December 15th. Coordinate with your Program Officer.

If you have a Tabling Report due in April or August:
The museum’s report will still be reviewed by the Commission at its regularly scheduled June and October 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.

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

Other

If your 2020 Annual Accreditation Participation fee is overdue:
Museums that were billed a 2020 Annual Participation Fee were to have paid it by Jan 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.

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