Jan. 19—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art has earned reaccreditation from The American Alliance of Museums, the highest honor from the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community.
Of the country's estimated 33,000 museums, only 1,099 have earned the standing of currently accredited.
In Pennsylvania, there are 35 institutions with the achievement.
Michael Strueber, SAMA's director emeritus, said SAMA first received national accreditation in 1996.
"At the time, we were the first art museum in the United States to received accreditation for an institution that wasn't designed as a museum and didn't start with a collection or endowment," he said. "This is the fourth time SAMA has been nationally accredited, and it's a big deal. Now the museum will only have to pursue it every 10 years."
Since 1906, AAM has been championing museums through advocacy and providing museum professionals with the resources, knowledge, inspiration and connections they need to move the field forward.
Recognized as the field's gold standard for museum excellence for over 50 years, AAM accreditation signifies a museum's quality and credibility to the entire museum community, to governments and outside agencies and to the museum-going public.
The accreditation program helps to ensure the integrity and accessibility of museum collections, reinforce the educational and public service roles of museums and promote good governance practices and ethical behavior.
"Rural museums in the United States are almost nonexistent, but this is the same accreditation that The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Art receive," Strueber said. "It's a nationally and internationally recognized distinction."
Through a rigorous process of self-assessment and review by their peers, museums have demonstrated they meet standards and best practices and are educational entities that are appropriate stewards of the collections and resources they hold in the public trust.
To earn accreditation, a museum submits a self-study questionnaire and key operational documents for evaluation, then undergoes a site visit by a two-person team of peer reviewers which produces a report for the accreditation commission.
Reaccreditation is a yearlong process, where every aspect of the museum's operations, scholarship and conservation efforts is analyzed and evaluated.
Over the past two years, SAMA's staff and board of trustees have worked with the AAM to present the museum's strategic plan, operating procedures and hundreds of pages worth of reports.
"This is something the whole community can be proud of and what SAMA has developed," Strueber said. "The museum has one of the best education programs in Pennsylvania serving about 16 school districts. The outreach is wonderful, the exhibition calendar is fabulous and the permanent collection now numbers 7,000 pieces."
Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art operates facilities in Altoona, Bedford, Ligonier, Johnstown and Loretto.
For more information, visit www.sama-art.org.