St. Petersburg, Fla. – Great Explorations Children’s Museum has achieved accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest recognition for a museum. Great Explorations is now one of only eight children’s museums to be accredited out of more than 300 children’s museums that exist in the United States.
AAM accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, donors, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public. “We are so proud to earn this national recognition for the children and families of St. Petersburg,” said Angeline Howell, executive director for Great Explorations. “This city is vibrant and evolving and there is a great sense of pride in its cultural assets. AAM accreditation distinguishes the St. Petersburg community as one that cares about its children and values providing unique and diverse educational opportunities for its families.”
Accreditation is a rigorous, self-motivated process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations – financial, governance, public programs, community engagement, stewardship, security, etc. A museum must first conduct a yearlong self-study, followed by a study by an outside peer review team. Both produce appraisals which are reviewed by AAM’s Accreditation Commission, at which time a decision is rendered. While the time to complete the process varies by museum, it generally takes three years.
“We began the process of self-evaluation in late 2009,” said Alan Kahle, the museum’s chief operating officer, who led the accreditation effort. “Through the study we gained an understanding of our strengths and identified areas in need of improvement. The accreditation process has helped us become a better organization that can serve our visitors with a standard of quality that is above the norm.”
Great Explorations was founded in 1987 by the Junior League of St. Petersburg, Hands-On, Inc. and a group of community leaders who wanted to bring a hands-on, interactive children’s museum to St. Petersburg. Through the support of community leaders, corporate and individual donors and the City of St. Petersburg, the museum has grown to serve nearly 180,000 children and families each year at its current location, adjacent to Sunken Gardens on Fourth Street North.
Great Explorations is the first mid-size children’s museum in the country and the only children’s museum in Florida to achieve AAM accreditation. The museum joins the ranks of Indianapolis Children’s Museum, Boston Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Please Touch Museum (Philadelphia), Discovery Place (Charlotte, NC), Family Museum (Bettendorf, IA) and Children’s Museum of Memphis.
“Accreditation assures the people of St. Petersburg that their museum is among the finest in the nation,” said Ford W. Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums. “As a result, the city and its citizens can take pride in their homegrown institution, the value it brings to the community and its commitment to excellence.”
About Great Explorations Children’s Museum
Great Explorations Children’s Museum has served the children and families of the Tampa Bay area since 1987. Designed for children 10 and under, the 24,000 square foot museum is filled with exhibits and activities to stimulate learning through creativity, play and exploration. The museum also offers a national award-winning preschool, field trips and community outreach programs.
Location: 1925 4th Street North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33704
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 4:30 PM
About 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. With more than 17,000 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. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.
There are 1,005 accredited museums in the United States. That means that just 6% of the estimated 17,500 museums in the country are accredited.
Three other St. Petersburg museums are AAM accredited – Salvador Dali Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and Florida Holocaust Museum.
Other Tampa Bay area AAM accredited museums include Tampa Museum of Art, Henry B. Plant Museum, MOSI, and University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum.
Simply, accreditation is comparable to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
Accreditation is often a prerequisite for or integral to:
• Loans of objects from other museums, particularly internationally;
• Funding from many philanthropies and foundations;
• Support from local, municipal and state government.
To be accredited signifies a museum meets and often exceeds the standards and best practices of the museum field.
Accredited museums encompass the breadth of America’s museums – art, children’s, history, historic sites, natural history, science and technology centers, public and botanic gardens, zoos and aquariums.
Accredited museum range from some of the world’s best-known institutions – the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the California Academy of Sciences – to smaller museums in all 50 states, such as the Montana Historical Society and the North Museum of Natural History at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania.