A summary of the key changes to Museum Accreditation in 2020.

This post is written by Vicky Dawson, our Technical Accreditation Advisor in October 2020, to support South West museums during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is now just over six months since Arts Council England paused the receipt and assessment of new applications and returns to the Museum Accreditation scheme.  It did this to devote its energies to supporting museums deal with the exceptional circumstances posed by lockdown.  This article is a reminder on what’s what, now that we are at the halfway mark.

What has changed? A reminder:

The pause will last for a year, from end March 2020 to April 2021.  The major implications of this decision are:

  • All museums, whether holding Full, Provisional or Working Towards Accreditation status have their current status extended for a year;
  • The Accreditation requirement to be open to the public for a minimum period over that year is waived, to take account of those museums unable to open due to COVID-19 restrictions;
  • No invitations to submit an Accreditation return will be sent out between April 2020 and April 2021;
  • No new applications or returns can be submitted through the Arts Council England portal Grantium. You can however begin a new application/return on the site or access an existing application/return already on the site;
  • The Accreditation assessors will not be working on any existing assessments during that period – if you have submitted and are expecting a response, Arts Council England will have contacted you in April 2020.

What if my museum is not Accredited, but we are interested in joining the Scheme?

The decision has not impacted on applications for Museum Accreditation Eligibility, which continue to be accepted and assessed. View more information on applying for Accreditation on the Arts Council England website.

Over the last six months we’ve been delighted to welcome four new museums onto the scheme in the South West – congratulations!

  • Haynes International Motor Museum
  • Arundells
  • Milborne Port History Society
  • Atwell Wilson Motor Museum

When will the scheme re-open?

Arts Council England plans to issue a revised timetable for Accreditation returns in January 2021 and restart the assessment of returns and new applications in April 2021.

This means:

  • We will publicise the new returns timetable as soon as it is available – check whether you are signed up to our regular e-newsletter to be the first to hear;
  • If you have already submitted a return/application but it has been held up by the pause, your assessor will be in touch after April to request an updated Forward/Business Plan and information on any other aspects of your museum’s operation that might have changed since you submitted your return/application. Wait until you’re asked – assessors will have many cases to work through;
  • If you were about to submit your return just as Arts Council England pressed the ‘pause’ button, your existing return on Grantium will still be valid, but you must check that all statements and documentation is up to date – Forward/Business plans in particular will have changed due to COVID-19;
  • It is likely, but still to be confirmed, that all museums’ revised return submission dates will be a year later than the one anticipated pre-COVID, so make sure you check the new schedule when it is released early in 2021.

How do I prepare for my museum’s next return?

It’s not so much ‘what can I do to prepare’ but rather ‘what should I be doing to continue to work to Accreditation standards’ – Accreditation is not a fixed point in time but a way of working and a framework for improvement.

Spread the load both over time and amongst the workforce. Here is a checklist of things to stay on top of, whether you expect to be invited to submit a return in 2021 or in subsequent years:

  • Keep your Forward/Business Plan up to date and use it regularly to set and monitor programmes of work;
  • Ensure all your policies are reviewed in a timely manner – generally every five years, but maybe more frequently in the light of COVID-19;
  • Monitor the delivery of your plans – documentation improvement, care & conservation, security, access – and adjust timescales and/or activities if anticipated progress has slipped or different priorities have emerged;
  • Continue to consult your users, non-users and stakeholders and to analyse the data collected to inform future planning;
  • Keep your website current – it is your public’s window into your museum, especially important when the public health situation is changing so rapidly. It is also a key tool used by Accreditation assessors to get to know your museum – first impressions count!
  • Make regular contact with your Accreditation Mentor (if applicable) – remember they should be sent copies of the agendas and minutes of meetings of the Governing Body and should also conduct annual review of the museum’s activity with their principal at the museum.

Where can I find out more?

Arts Council England has produced a helpful set of FAQs about the changes to the assessment timetable.

We are also here to help answer your questions. Get in touch at [email protected].

Remember the many useful resources on our resources page and on the Collections Trust website.