The Museum Accreditation Scheme, first introduced in 1988, was relaunched this week to mark its 30th anniversary.
The scheme – the industry standard for museums and galleries in the UK – has been refreshed after a two-year review conducted by its four national partners, Arts Council England (ACE), the Welsh government, Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) and the Northern Ireland Museums Council (NIMC).
The revised scheme extends the period between returns, when museums must submit evidence to demonstrate their continued compliance with the standard, from three to five years to reduce the burden of paperwork on participants. The new Accreditation standard has also been simplified and updated with clearer language.
The new standard is still separated into three sections, covering organisational health, managing collections, and users and their experiences. Updates have been made to its 21 sub-sections, which are broadly similar to those of the 2011 standard.
The application and returns process is to be moved to ACE’s Grantium funding portal. This will open in spring next year in time for returns due in May 2019. ACE said the online portal is currently being tailored to meet the scheme’s requirements.
The arts council has also committed to publishing a single guidance document by the end of 2018, replacing the existing suite of documents with something “clearer”.
MGS said participating museums would be offered more support during the longer returns period, including training sessions, webinars and surgeries.
Alistair Brown, the policy officer at the Museums Association, welcomed the new scheme: “The UK Accreditation partners have done a great job in creating a new, simpler and clearer Accreditation Standard with a five-yearly returns period.
“After 30 years of the scheme, the Accreditation Standard needs to be user-friendly while continuing to push museums to use their collections, staff and venues to deliver real public benefit.
“We hope that the standard published today and the guidance published later this year will be the changes that the scheme needs.”
Darren Henley, the chief executive of ACE, said: “Museum Accreditation is a fundamental tool for ACE and UK partners to develop and support a diverse range of museums. The review provided a valuable opportunity to listen to colleagues in museums and ensure that the scheme is managed in a resilient and sustainable way, offering them the best possible experience.
“I’m confident the refreshed scheme will make it easier for more museums and galleries to take part, and for the UK partners to help them be the best they can for current and future visitors.”
“The recent review was needed to bring the scheme up to date; it showed that museums do value the scheme, and consider it transformative, but also confirmed some key issues,” said Triona White Hamilton, the development officer for collections and museums at NIMC.
“Listening to the sector has helped us shape what we hope will be a scheme that is managed more effectively, is more efficient for users and communicates the benefits and achievements of the scheme more clearly.”
Jason Thomas, the director of culture, tourism and sport at the Welsh government, said: “The newly revised standard will make the benefits of Accreditation even clearer for all to see. The fact that we are now celebrating Accreditation’s 30th anniversary is testament to the dedication of thousands of volunteers and paid staff who run and support our incredible museums.”
MGS’ head of museum development, Joe Traynor, said: “We feel that the slimmed down scheme, simplified language, clearer guidance and extended timescales should make it easier for museums of all sizes to take part, while at the same time ensuring Accreditation remains a robust standard that supports the sector.”