CONTRIBUTED BY AUBURN UNIVERSITY
BY CHARLOTTE HENDRIX
The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University — which will begin its 20th anniversary in fall 2023 — is again among the ranks of national museums that have been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, or AAM, the advocacy group that acknowledges the highest standards in the museum profession.
Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, governments, funders, outside agencies and the museum-going public. The alliance initially accredited the Auburn museum in 2003, and the re-accreditation continues a standard of excellence at the one-of-a-kind campus resource.
Alliance representatives noted strong programmatic relevance with university courses, growth and diversity within the university art collection and facility improvements for its ongoing care since the last review. All museums must undergo a reaccreditation review at least every 10 years to maintain accredited status.
“Re-accreditation sets the stage for celebrating the museum’s 20th anniversary next year,” said the museum’s executive director, Cindi Malinick. “It is an important national acknowledgment of all the institution has accomplished and of its bright future filled with possibility. Being commended by AAM as an asset to our primary audiences of faculty, students and staff of the university, ‘The Jule’ is honored for this recognition as a leader in the field, clearly serving as the cultural heart of a public research institution through teaching and stewarding the university art collection.”
AAM brings national recognition to a museum for its commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards and continued institutional improvement. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for 50 years, the alliance’s museum accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation and public accountability. It strengthens 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 service to the public.
Accreditation is a very rigorous but highly rewarding process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations. To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of self-study and then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. AAM’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, considers the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation.
Gathered from interviews with staff, academics and alumni, the alliance visiting committee commended the museum’s exemplary work toward a well-rounded, uniquely Auburn student experience and enhanced teaching and learning opportunities grounded in object-based research. Increased university collaboration is due in part to two museum staff positions dedicated to advancing curatorial and educational practices with students and faculty. The museum also strategically shifted tactics to evolve with the museum field, which is addressing major shifts around interpretation and representation, not to mention ways of attracting new and returning visitors post-pandemic.
Additionally, researchers with the Measurement of Museum Social Impact Study selected Auburn to be a part of a national study to quantify the ways in which institutions strengthen the social fabric of a community and the well-being of all who live there.
Of the nation’s estimated 33,000 museums, nearly 1,100 are currently accredited. The Jule Collins Smith Museum is one of only seven museums accredited in Alabama — and the only accredited university art museum in the state.
“Accredited museums are a community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence,” said Laura L. Lott, alliance president and CEO. “Accreditation is clearly a significant achievement, of which both the institutions and the communities they serve can be extremely proud.”
Located on Auburn’s campus, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is the cultural heart of an Alabama public research institution serving students, faculty and the constituents of the Southeast. The university art collection includes works spanning the 17th to 21st centuries and is comprised of photographs, works on paper depicting the South, ceramics and Southern visionary art.
ABOUT THE AMERICAN ALLIANCE OF MUSEUMS
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 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions and corporate partners serving the museum field, the alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.