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Accreditation Program and COVID-19: FAQs and Guidance

Updated May 20, 2021

The Accreditation Program and process is back on track so museums are asked to keep to their original Self-Study due date. We will still exercise some flexibility with deadlines for museums who are in review in 2021.  Those museums due in 2021 who foresee needing a modest schedule change will need to consult with their Program Officer.

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 before the pandemic.

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

Schedules and Deadlines

If your Self-Study is due in 2021:
Museums should keep to their original Self-Study due date. If you are unable to meet your deadline, work with your Program Officer to discuss what adjustments are available based on your particular situation.

We know that your operations (attendance, revenue, hours open, staffing, programs/exhibits) have been dramatically impacted. As always, in its deliberations and decision-making, the Accreditation Commission takes the full context of the museum’s situation into account.

If your Self-Study is due in 2022 or beyond:
Museums are expected to keep to their original Self-Study due date.

Site Visits:
Most site visits will be conducted virtually through August 2021.  Visit windows (whether virtual or in-person) remain the same. You will coordinate your specific (virtual) visit dates directly with your Visiting Committee and confirm the schedule with your Program Officer.

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

The shift to virtual reduces health risks to volunteer Peer Reviewers and museum staff, and eliminates travel costs.

We acknowledge that your operational data (attendance, revenue, hours open, staffing) in the Self-Study may be 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.

We anticipate resuming in-person visits for museums with a Nov-Dec 2021 visit window.

If you have a Tabling Report due:
The museum’s report will still be reviewed by the Commission at its regularly scheduled meetings, so 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 everything into account when reviewing the museum’s final report. At that time, it will make the decision on how the museum moves forward in the process.

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 or 2021 Annual Accreditation Participation fee is overdue:
Overdue museums have been contacted by their Program Officer. Payments should be received by May 17, 2021 to avoid being placed on probation.

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