Seeking American Alliance of Museums Accreditation

Assuring residents that their Park Authority is serving them. 

aamWe’re going to have visitors as we move into the holiday season. They’re going to want to know if we’re doing a good job.

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) establishes the standards through which museums are recognized for their commitment to excellence, accountability, and professionalism. In 1979, the Fairfax County Park Authority became the first county agency in the nation accredited by the AAM.

This year, we’re making sure we keep that accreditation.

In recent months, we’ve been working toward re-accreditation. We’ve completed a part of the process called a Self-Study, and that was submitted to the AAM in July 2016. Next is a visit from AAM personnel who will take a look at our sites. They’ll file a report, an AAM commission will review their report on February 8, 2017 and, if all goes well, accreditation will be granted in spring 2017.

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Here’s what we hope to accomplish:

Colvin Run, Sully, and the Historic Artifact Collection were accredited in 1979, and all were reaccredited in 1990 and 2002. Green Spring was included for the first time in 2002.

The AAM representatives will look to see if the Fairfax County Park Authority meets certain requirements that fall under specific headings — Public Trust and Accountability, Mission and Planning, Leadership and Organizational Structure, Stewardship of the Collections, Education and Interpretation, Facilities and Risk Management, and Financial Stability.

The Park Authority Board, senior leadership, and site staff are preparing now to answer questions they’ll face on collection policies and procedures when the AAM members visit. We’re preparing a “year-in-the-life-of-a-site” presentation for the AAM visitors, who will be in Fairfax County on December 13, 14, and 15 of this year. They will probably be most interested in our plans for a bond-funded facility to store our collections, the impact that the recession had on our operations, and our staffing.

The AAM visitors will see FCPA Collections at Walney Visitor Center in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park and at the Frey House, then visit Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria. They’ll also visit Sully Historic Site and Frying Pan Farm Park as well as spend time with the Park Board and attend a reception at the county government’s Herrity Building, where the Park Authority’s main offices reside. Their final day will be spent at Colvin Run Mill Historic Site and amid the archaeological collections at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church.

Since the last time the agency was accredited, we’ve made some critical changes to our collections policies, implemented new recordkeeping databases for objects and plants, adopted the Professional Code of Ethics for Museum Operations, improved storage conditions with better housekeeping and environmental monitoring, and updated our emergency plans and Friend Groups agreements.

We hope that AAM confirms that we manage our collections properly, are working to get better at our responsibilities, and are following current museum best practices and professional standards.

That accreditation will tell you that we’re doing things the right way.



Author David Ochs is the Stewardship Communications Manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Resource Management Division, and co-author Carol Ochs is a management analyst in the agency’s Public Information Office.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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