Our Technical Accreditation Advisor, Vicky Dawson, shares how, using Museum Accreditation as a guide, you can navigate the changes caused by the pandemic in a systematic way, with an integrated, manageable approach.

Accreditation may be the last thing on your mind, but I hope I can persuade you of how it can be harnessed to help you tackle your workload as you open your doors once again.

Arts Council England has taken its first steps to reopen the Accreditation Scheme since assessments were halted in March 2020.  You can keep abreast of the rollout on their Accreditation information pages.

We are all aware of how Coronavirus has impacted our lives and our museums.  We are still grappling with the many changes – temporary and permanent – that it has brought. Read on to see how Accreditation can help you navigate these in a systematic way, with an integrated, manageable approach that is sustainable in the long run.

A puzzle completing the Accreditation logo

How to stay on track: Organisational Health 

All areas of Section 1 of the Standard will have been impacted, to a greater or lesser degree by the pandemic:

  • Statement of purpose: is it still appropriate and compelling in this new world? Are your stakeholders, audiences or workforce familiar with it?
  • Governance: Did your constitution provide the right guidance and protection to help you navigate the pandemic? is your board up to strength? Do you have the right skills and experience to face the challenges ahead?
  • Forward Plan: how is the changed context in which you operate impacting on your plan? How are you consulting on and sharing it?  How nimble does it allow you to be?
  • You have probably also needed to change workforce structures and procedures to reflect new work patterns and volunteer numbers.
  • Financial policies will have been stretched to their limit by the uncertainties of the past 14 months – reserves, cash flow forecasting, fundraising all perhaps need review and tightening up.
  • Security, emergency planning, premises: have changed staffing levels or visitor circulation routes impacted on security and the effective implementation of your emergency plan? Are your leases still secure if your landlord has hit hard times?

How to resume: Collections

There was always more to do on the collections before the pandemic, so what now?

  • Collections development: as we focus more on our local audiences, how do our collections reflect their interests and stories? How might a changed emphasis in the museum’s Vision or Mission impact the Collection Development Policy?
  • Documentation & Collections care: have changes in workforce capacity impacted on plans for documentation improvement and collections care? Are your targets still realistic and achievable?

Our Pest Partners project, supported by Historic England, led by our Conservation Development Officer, Helena Jaeschke, has demonstrated the value of an integrated pest management system and given you practical tools to meet this aspect of the Accreditation standard.

How to reboot: Users & their Experiences

Section 3 of the Accreditation Standard – Users and their Experiences – is probably the one you have been focussing on the most as you prepared to reopen safely.

  • Access and audience development have never been more important as you look to diversify your audience and address some of the many inequalities highlighted during the pandemic – whether by Black Lives Matter or a greater focus on mental and physical wellbeing.  Would your access audit and statement benefit from a review?  What would your local audiences like from their museum?
  • New audiences may demand new approaches to interpretation: shorter, punchier exhibitions, digital fare that can be accessed off site. How to support children, whose learning has been interrupted, in an engaging, inspirational way?
  • And finally marketing and your website – so important for encouraging people to return: to give them confidence, to arouse their interest, to project a welcoming, inclusive organisation.

Where to start

There is a wealth of support available as you move forward.  Speak to your local Museum Development Officer (MDO) or contact our South West Museum Development Thematic Officers, check out our resources and that of the Collections Trust.  Sign up to our newsletter for news of this autumn’s Museum Skills Programme and attend training so you can keep your skills up to date: a raft of training focussing on resilience.

By using the Accreditation framework – actually living Accreditation – you will be ready to submit your return whenever you receive your invitation.