National Museum of American History Receives AAM Accreditation

July 27, 2021

The Smithsonian ’s National Museum of American History has been reaccredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national standard of recognition afforded the nation’s museums. Accreditation certifies that the museum meets the highest standards of excellence, and it comes after a rigorous review process that AAM member museums undergo every 10 years to maintain accredited status.  

Developed and sustained by museum professionals for 50 years, AAM’s museum accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation and public accountability. It is designed to strengthen the museum profession by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely and remain financially and ethically accountable in order to provide the best possible public service. Due to restrictions around COVID-19, the museum accreditation process was done virtually in spring 2021, following extensive self-studies and reports. 

“Our staff continuously works to promote best practices in collection stewardship, sustainability and thoughtful acquisition and accessibility,” said the museum’s Elizabeth MacMillan Director Anthea M. Hartig. “This accreditation reenforces the ongoing work outlined in our new strategic plan and our solid commitment to represent and document the nation’s complex history.” 

AAM’s review committee commended the museum’s ongoing work to diversify its collections, to implement a decolonization plan and for the work on its 2020–2030 strategic plan. Contemporary and rapid response collecting around events of the past 16 months, including Black Lives Matter, the cascading crisis around the COVID-19 pandemic and a commitment to language justice—reflected in the bilingual signage throughout the building and the requirement that all exhibitions opened in 2021 onward feature English/Spanish labels—were also highly praised in the report. 

To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of rigorous self-study that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations and then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers assigned by AAM’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals. The reviewers consider the self-study and the visiting committee’s report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation. 

“Accredited museums are a community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence,” said Laura L. Lott, AAM president and CEO. “Accreditation is clearly a significant achievement, of which both the institutions and the communities they serve can be extremely proud.” 

Of the nation’s estimated 33,000 museums, more than 1,080 are currently accredited. The National Museum of American History is one of only 22 Washington, D.C., museums listed as accredited on AAM’s website. 

About the National Museum of American History 

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. The museum, located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th streets, is open Friday through Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Admission is free and timed-entry passes are no longer required. The doors of the museum are always open online and the virtual museum continues to expand with offerings, including online exhibitions, K–12 educational materials and programs. The public can follow the museum on social media on TwitterInstagram and Facebook. For more information, go to https://americanhistory.si.edu, For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000. 

About AAM 

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 30,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance is the only organization representing the entire scope of the broad museum community. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org

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