Accreditation Visiting Committee Site Visit
Review Your Role and Responsibilities
Visits occur during a pre-determined window (March 1-April 15, July 15-Aug 30 or Nov 1-Dec 15) based on the museum’s Self-Study due date.
Visits are typically 1.5-2 days; sometimes 3 days for a large, multi-site institution.
Peer reviewers spend about 40-60 hours over a three-month period preparing for, conducting the site visit, and completing the report.
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 Site Visit Expense (travel reimbursement) Form (available on the Accreditation Peer Reviewer Resources page). 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 where they have an account.
Site visit travel is the primary focus; personal or other business travel is secondary to the site visit schedule. Peer Reviewers personally cover any costs associated with traveling companions or extending the visit for personal / other business reasons. Peer Reviewer’s guests/traveling companions cannot be part of the confidential site visit.
Set the Agenda with the Museum
Refer to the Core Standards, and consult with your team member and the museum to develop an agenda. Take advantage of virtual platforms to conduct some interviews before (or after) being on-site. Adding in a virtual on-camera component to the agenda can be a great way to maximize and complement your time at the museum.
The agenda should ensure you are able to:
- Gain insight into daily operations
- Verify the Self-Study and attachments
- 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 key museum staff and stakeholders/community partners
- Gauge the museum’s progress since its last review (if a reaccreditation review)
- Reflect, discuss, and take notes privately with your team member
Review All Documentation
Prior to the visit, ensure you have a thorough understanding of the institution by reading the entire Self-Study—questionnaire and attachments. This will help you finalize the visit agenda, allow you to identify any additional materials or information you’ll need in advance, and so you can compare it to actual practices you observe at the museum.
Conducting the Visit
Feel free to conduct some preliminary meetings virtually. Virtual on-camera introductions are a great way to connect with your museum counterparts beforehand and can complement your on-site meetings at the museum. Before physically arriving at the museum, be sure to work with your team member to compare notes, and outline your on-site 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 operations
- Gather and review any new information or documents
- Emphasize that you will not offer any recommendations or discuss your opinions about what the Commission’s decision should be
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. Meetings with volunteers and other stakeholders/community partners are optional, but encouraged.
Tour all Facilities
Visit all public and behind the scenes spaces; schedule time to visit off-site storage facilities or branch/satellite sites.
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. Avoid making any recommendations/suggestions. Remind the director that the Commission is the final decision maker and will review the Site Visit Report in conjunction with the museum’s Self-Study materials.
Final Team Meeting and Your Confidential Advisory Comments to the Commission
At the conclusion of the visit, 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: At 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.
- Reports are due 3 weeks after the site visit.
- 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 (aka. 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 it 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 your recollection of the details decreases.
- Be completely candid and detailed in your description of major or minor concerns, but diplomatic and respectful in the phrasing.
- Do not include any advice/suggestions/recommendations on what to do, or how to do it.
- Verify the details: ensure names, dates, titles and data in your report are accurate.
- The Site Visit Report Form will be sent to the museum following the Commission’s review, so a complete and balanced report based upon 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 checkboxes, spelling/grammar errors or typos.
Submit a Word version of the report directly to Accreditation Program staff or to email@example.com.
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 cause the museum to be 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 confidentiality of the information. Email any key documents you received during the visit 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.