Bruce Museum Awarded National Accreditation


The Bruce Museum of Arts and Science in Greenwich, Connecticut has been granted accreditation by the American Association of Museums (AAM), the professional organization for museums in the United States. AAM Accreditation signifies that the institution is operating on all levels according to the highest and most current professional standards and practices, and that it fulfills its obligation to the public as put forth in its mission. Developed and operated by museum professionals, the accreditation program reflects, reinforces, and promotes the best practices in museums and the strictest accountability to the public it serves.

In a November 24, 1997 letter to Hollister Sturges, executive director of the Bruce Museum, Thomas A. Livesay, chairman of the AAM Accreditation Commission, writes: "The Commission acknowledges the extraordinary growth of The Bruce Museum which has taken place over the past several years. It is my great pleasure to inform you that, after thoughtful review and deliberation at its November 4-5, 1997 meeting, the Accreditation Commission of the American Association of Museums is granting accreditation to The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut. Museum accreditation certifies that your institution has undergone the rigorous, professional examination established by the American Association of Museums through the completion of the detailed self-study and the review of the Museum's operations by a Visiting Committee of the AAM Accreditation Commission."

Currently 17 of the 152 museums in Connecticut are AAM Accredited institutions. On a national level, less than 10% of the approximately 7,600 museums in the United States are accredited. Accreditation signifies and recognizes excellence within the museum community, to governments and outside agencies, and among the American public.

"Accreditation realizes the dream of a visionary board, a dedicated staff, and a supportive community," said Hollister Sturges, executive director of the Bruce Museum. "All who worked irelessly over the years deserve to be proud of the institution they have built. This achievement raises the Bruce to a new level of professionalism and excellence."

Accreditation has long been a primary goal for the Bruce Museum. Its achievement is the result of the combined vision of many people. Those include its past executive director, John B. Clark, its past three presidents, Mary Staples-Webber, Susan Lynch, and Janie Galbreath, its current executive director Hollister Sturges, co-presidents Joan Schiele and Irene Zelinsky, staff and governing board, and board member Ruth Sims, who was instrumental in advancing the application process.

"This accomplishment fulfills the dream of many who worked so diligently to this end over the years," said Mr. Clark, the Museum's director from 1979 to 1994. "Accreditation became a target in 1981 when efforts to expand and strengthen the staff, collections, and membership began. Hundreds of people were involved including many who are no longer with us. It is particularly appropriate that the Bruce Museum has received its accreditation during the holiday season. We can give thanks to all of the people who shared in this dream, thank the dreamers still among us, and reflect upon the commitment and effort of the early believers who provided the inspiration to make the Museum grow."

1996-1997 Bruce Museum co-presidents Joan Schiele and Irene Zelinsky said, "The three main goals set for the Bruce many years ago - consolidation of the Boards, construction of our new exhibition spaces, and accreditation - have at last been fully realized. The past few years have been devoted to securing the Museum's position in the community as a cultural and educational center. Receiving formal accreditation now solidifies the Bruce's role as a significant regional museum. We are proud to have played a part in the completion of this process to which so many before us have contributed."

Bruce Museum accreditation is based upon information provided by the Museum during the accreditation process. Only institutions that meet all the elements of the AAM's basic definition of a museum are considered for accreditation. The AAM defines a museum as "an organized and permanent non-profit institution, essentially educational or aesthetic in purpose, with professional staff, which owns and utilizes tangible objects, cares for them, and exhibits them to the public on some regular schedule."

Institutions begin the accreditation process by undertaking a one year period of self-study. During this time they complete a lengthy questionnaire surveying all aspects of operations which is supported by numerous documents. Following an interim approval, an on-site review by a two member evaluation team appointed by the AAM, called a Visiting Committee, takes place. This evaluation visit took place at the Bruce Museum on July 10 and ~1 of this year and was conducted by Dr. David Wagner, director of the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture, New York, New York, and Dr. Karol Lawson, director of collections at the Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia. The Visiting Committee evaluated several key elements of the Bruce Museum's operations and procedures including its governing authority, board of trustees, staff, membership, finances, physical facilities, collections, conservation and preservation procedures, security, exhibitions, programs and educational activities, plus its purposes, plans and its future. Following the site visit, the AAM Accreditation Committee then considers whether to grant accreditation by reviewing the Visiting Committee's report in conjunction with the museum's self-study material.

Susan Lynch, the Museum's 1993 president, said, "Accreditation is a crowning accomplishment for the 'New Bruce.' The concentrated effort by Museum staff, professionals, board members, and volunteers has provided the Bruce with an enormous source of pride and sense of accomplishment."

Accreditation is the latest achievement for the Bruce Museum, which opened its doors in 1912 by hosting the First Annual Exhibition of the Greenwich Society of Artists. The Museum served as the primary seat of exhibition activity for this Cos Cob School, hosting its Annual Exhibition through 1926. Paralleling this interest, the first two directors were naturalists who established science collections and were associated with the Museum for fifty years. In the 1970's and 1980's, the Museum significantly expanded its base of support founding the Bruce Museum Associates, a volunteer fundraising organization that garnered much private support. With an expanded role in the community, the Museum increased its staff and restructured its governance. In 1992, Bruce Museum, Inc. was established as a non-profit organization to supervise, manage, and operate the Bruce Museum for the Town of Greenwich. The Museum is publicly owned by the Town, but privately managed. In 1992 the Bruce Museum undertook a complete renovation of its 139 year-old building. Opened in September 1993, the new Bruce incorporates high-level security systems, climate control, spacesaver collection storage, increased space for collections care and for educational workshops, and improved access for the disabled. In November 1995, the Museum hired its first director trained in art history. Today the 84 year-old Bruce Museum has a first-rate facility, a well qualified staff, exceptional community good will, committed volunteers and broad-based financial support.

Mary Staples-Webber, the Museum's 1994 president, said, "Accreditation was finally achieved because of the enormous talent and hard work on the part of many individuals - staff, volunteers, and board members. I would like to express my deepest appreciation to those who, ten years ago, had a vision of what the Museum could become and to all those who built on that foundation to make the Museum what it is today."

The standards of institutional performance identified by museum accreditation are widely disseminated. By promoting the achievement of these standards among accredited museums the program impacts the museum field in general and increases the awareness of these standards among all institutions. Governments, funding agencies, and museum audiences also recognize museum accreditation as a significant achievement.

Janie Galbreath, the Museum's 1995 president, said, "Many people had a vision of this happening to the Museum, and they worked in unison for this result, the board, the staff, and four presidents in a row. And it could not have happened without donors to the Museum, who had the vision that the Bruce could be more than it was. The Museum has really made its spot in Greenwich."
Text courtesy of Bruce Museum.

rev. 11/22/10

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