Spencer Museum of Art receives highest national recognition

LAWRENCE – The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas has again achieved accreditation by the American Association of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation's museums. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public. The Spencer was initially accredited in 1978, the year the museum opened, and has maintained accreditation ever since. All museums must undergo a reaccreditation review at least every 10 years to maintain accredited status.

AAM Accreditation 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 35 years, AAM'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—all in order to provide the best possible service to the public.

"As we move forward, we will continue to build the Spencer as a vibrant and adaptive intersection for art, ideas, and experience," says SMA Director Saralyn Reece Hardy. "We will take risks with ideas and artists that lift our programs and stretch our capacities. Accreditation for the Spencer Museum of Art means the museum meets national standards and best practices for U.S. museums, but it also means that as a museum, we engaged in a thoughtful and thought-provoking process that gave us, among other things, opportunities to look deeply at where we are and where we are going."

In its report, the AAM peer review committee noted that "without question, the Spencer Museum at KU is considered essential to the academic mission of the university." The committee went on to say that "…(The Spencer has) a staff who see the museum as a conduit of ideas, as a crucible for life-changing and affirming experiences, and a place where objects make connections to and between people. At another museum, these could be classified as exalted ideas; at the Spencer they are attainable ideals."

Accreditation is a 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, 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. While the time to complete the process varies by museum, it generally requires as long as three years.

"Accreditation is emblematic of an institution's commitment to public service and to overall excellence," said Ford W. Bell, AAM president. "Attaining accreditation involves taking a hard look at yourself, allowing your peers in the field to do the same, and being judged to be superior in all areas. The people of Lawrence and the University of Kansas can take great pride in the fact that their institution is one of America's premier museums."

Of the nation's estimated 17,500 museums, 776 are currently accredited. The Spencer is one of 78 accredited university art museums nationally. Near to Lawrence, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City also received reaccreditation this year.

The Spencer Museum of Art houses an internationally known collection that is deep and diverse, currently numbering approximately 38,000 artworks and artifacts in all media. The collection spans the history of European and American art from ancient to contemporary, and includes broad and significant holdings of East Asian art. Areas of special strength include medieval panel painting and religious sculpture; the Kress Study Collection of early modern Italian painting; 19th-century American art and material culture; old master prints; photography; European, East Asian, and Indian textiles; American Indian pottery, beadwork, and jewelry; African sculpture; Japanese Edo-period prints; and 20th-century Chinese painting.

The American Association 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. With more than 15,000 individual, 3,000 institutional, and 300 corporate members, AAM is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future.