Assuring residents that their Park Authority is serving them.
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.
Here’s what we hope to accomplish:
- Reaccreditation for Sully Historic Site, Colvin Run Mill, Green Spring Gardens and Historic Artifact Collections
- Expand the portfolio of accredited sites with first-time accreditation for Frying Pan Farm Park and Archaeological Collections
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.