Art Center receives reaccreditation from Alliance of Museums

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Museums often bring to mind exhibit halls filled with artifacts or galleries lined with artwork, but much more goes into making a museum a success that appears on the surface. From creating a space welcoming to guests, to designing engaging educational programs, to properly storing items off display and training staff members, it takes hours of work and dedication to make a museum successful. In recognition of the Muscatine Art Center’s commitment to improving and providing the best experience possible for Muscatine area residents who visit, the American Alliance of Museums has reaccredited the Muscatine Art Center, the most prestigious designation it can bestow.

Currently, the American Alliance of Museums estimates that the United States has about 33,000 museums, but that only 1,080 have received their accreditation. In Iowa, the Muscatine Art Center represents only one of 33 accredited museums.

To complete the accreditation process, Muscatine Art Center Director Melanie Alexander shared that the Art Center had to demonstrate their commitment to best practices in many areas. To start the process, the Art Center completed an extensive workbook where they documented many aspects of their financial plans, ethical procedures, collections policy, educational programs, disaster plans, annual visitor totals, recent exhibits, current collections, and goals for the institution in the future. “There’s just a lot of materials; there are hundreds of pages once we’re done,” Alexander elaborated.

In addition to providing documentation, the Art Center also went through a peer review process. Because the Art Center’s reaccreditation process coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Art Center had to adapt to providing a video tour of the art center and participating in virtual peer review sessions instead of doing them in person as they had in the past. To that end, they created a video that showed in detail their public spaces and private collections areas and participated in two days of virtual meetings discussing the video and the documentation they provided.

Muscatine Art Center Director Melanie Alexander with the Art Center’s reaccreditation certificate from the American Alliance of Museums. Photo by Margaret Hurlbert.

Throughout the reaccreditation process, Alexander believed the peer reviewers felt impressed with the range of programs and exhibits the Art Center provides each year with their fulltime staff of four people. “For the size of our staff, we do a lot,” she noted. The peer reviewers also appeared pleased with the Art Center’s care of their collections and their financial management.

Additionally, the reaccreditation process helpes the Art Center determine future projects they would like to work on to continue improving the museum, such as further organizing collections storage, installing a loading dock and larger elevator to make delivering and sending back exhibits easier, and adding additional visitor amenities, such as more restrooms. Such improvements will keep the Muscatine Art Center welcoming and accessible to all, both visitors and staff, and assist the Art Center in maintaining its accreditation in the future.

An important milestone for the Art Center, Alexander felt both pleased to receive reaccreditation and motivated to keep improving the museum for the future. “I think it’s important we maintain that commitment to having the highest standard,” she said.

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