The Accreditation Scheme is a voluntary scheme that sets nationally agreed standards for museums in the UK. It is a baseline quality standard that helps to guide museums to be the best they can be for current and future museum users.
Read all about the Accreditation Scheme.
See a list of Scotland’s Accredited museums.
Benefits of Accreditation
- Performance: A quality standard that serves as an authoritative benchmark for assessing performance, rewarding achievement and driving improvement.
- Profile: It raises awareness and understanding of museums, and builds confidence and credibility both within the governing body and among the general public.
- People: It helps museums to improve their focus on meeting museum users’ needs and interests and on developing their workforce.
- Partnerships: It helps museums to examine their services and to encourage joint working within and between organisations.
- Planning: It helps with forward planning by formalising procedures and policies.
- Patronage: It demonstrates that a museum has met a national standard, strengthening applications for public and private funding and giving investors confidence in the organisation.
Achieving this status has helped Accredited museums to:
- attract financial support from external sources
- show their fitness to receive sponsorship and donations
- raise awareness to stakeholders
- assess achievements
- improve planning skills
- improve morale
To apply to the Accreditation Scheme, a museum must meet the 1998 Museums Association definition of a museum:
Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.
To be eligible to apply, the museum must also:
- hold a long-term collection of artefacts
- have a formal constitution
- provide two years of relevant accounts
- meet all relevant legal, ethical, safety, equality, environmental and planning requirements
- be committed to improving its service for museum users
If you meet all of the above criteria, you should first read the Accreditation Standard and guidance. You should then complete and return to us the Accreditation eligibility questionnaire.
We will assess your eligibility to work towards the standard and will usually let you know our decision within four weeks. We may contact you if we need further information to make our decision.
If successful, your organisation’s status will be confirmed as ‘working towards Accreditation’ and you will be invited to apply to the Accreditation Scheme.
National versus nationally-styled museums
Scotland’s national museums and galleries are those:
- established by national legislation
- significantly funded directly by the Scottish Government
All of Scotland’s other museums are non-national museums and galleries, including ‘nationally-styled’ museums and galleries. Such museums were not established by national legislation and are not significantly funded directly by the Government, but are marketed with a national name, e.g. a title that includes the term ‘National’, ‘Scottish’ or ‘Scotland’. Examples in Scotland include the British Golf Museum and the Scottish Fisheries Museum.
Nationally-styled museums must complete 12 additional questions.
Accreditation characteristics and criteria for such museums are enhanced, as a nationally-styled name leads to certain expectations on the part of the general public – both in terms of facilities and the scope and scale of the collection. The UK Accreditation Partners are planning to review national-styling in more detail as part of the wider light touch review of Accreditation in 2017/18.
For new applicants to the Scheme, nationally-styled names for museum are considered at eligibility stage. At this stage the appropriateness of the name of the museum is discussed, and possibly a site visit undertaken.
For museums already participating in the Scheme and where they have rebranded using a nationally-styled name, the assessing body will also consider the suitability of the name of the museum and may make additional recommendations in relation to this.
For more information see the published Accreditation guidance: An introduction (June 2014).
You should direct any queries on this matter to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accreditation Scheme for Museums and Galleries in the United Kingdom: Accreditation Standard [PDF, 549KB]
Details all of the requirements of the Accreditation Standard.
Accreditation guidance – An introduction
Accreditation guidance – An introduction [PDF, 770KB]
Explains the process of making an application, and how the application is assessed and a decision on it reached. It also explains ‘scalability’.
This refers to the way in which Accreditation divides museums by:
- type – independent, local authority, university, national and nationally styled
- size – for independent, local authority and university museums only, from 1 (smallest) to 3 (largest)
Accreditation guidance – Sections 1, 2 and 3
Accreditation guidance – Section one: Organisational health [PDF, 532KB]
Accreditation guidance – Section two: Collections [PDF, 483KB]
Accreditation guidance – Section three: Users and their experience [PDF, 389KB]
Details the requirements of each section, including:
- general and scaled (as appropriate) guidance for each requirement
- details of the information and documents that museums must provide
- the list of questions that will be considered as part of the assessment
Collections Development Policy template
Collections Development Policy template [Word, 214KB]
Museums should use this template to prepare a Collections Development Policy, one of the requirements of the Accreditation Scheme.
Museum Mentor Handbook and templates
Museum Mentor Handbook [PDF, 246KB]
Museum Mentor toolkit templates [Word, 542KB]
A Museum Mentor is engaged by a museum working towards Accreditation.
The Museum Mentor Handbook:
- explains the role of Museum Mentors and what is expected of them
- advises on tools and techniques to promote successful mentoring
Useful templates for the Museum Mentor include a template for the agreement between the Museum Mentor and the museum.
Questions for national & nationally-styled museums
Questions for national & nationally-styled museums [Word, 140KB]
National and nationally-styled museums should complete these 12 additional questions as well as demonstrating the rest of the Standard requirements have been met.
Museums Galleries Scotland is the Accreditation Scheme assessor for all museums in Scotland. We jointly assess Scotland’s national museums and galleries with Arts Council England. If your museum wishes to join the Accreditation Scheme, first contact our Quality Assurance Manager.
You will first be asked to complete and submit an eligibility questionnaire. Find out more about this pre-application stage, during which we assess your eligibility to pursue Accreditation.
Once your completed questionnaire has been assessed (usually within four weeks), eligible museums will be awarded the official status of ‘working towards Accreditation’. You will then have 12 months in which to submit a full application for Accreditation.
Applications are made online via the Arts Council England Applications Portal.
When to apply
Your museum can start looking into meeting the standard now and begin the process of applying to the Accreditation Scheme at any time.
Sources of advice and support
Find out about the support offered by Museum Mentors.
View opportunities to take part in our Skills Development Programme.
What happens next?
Our Quality Assurance Manager will assess each application submitted via the Applications Portal and prepare a report to present to the Accreditation Panel. The assessment may take five months from the date of submission, and the museum will then be presented to the next available panel.
The assessment involves a review of all information submitted and might lead to our Quality Assurance Manager asking for more information or clarification. All museums applying to the Accreditation Scheme for the first time will also receive a verification visit. This is the assessor’s chance to see a museum’s policies and plans in action as well as its display and storage areas.
Site visits complement our desk based assessment and help us to gain a better understanding of your organisation. They are part of the quality assurance process within Accreditation. We visit all new applicants to the scheme, museums that have been through a period of significant change and a 10% sample of all other returns.
At the visit we will cross-check information you have provided in your application form to help inform our draft recommendations to the Accreditation Panel. Visits are designed to be supportive, there is no pass or fail. If issues are identified during the visit, we will provide feedback and guidance on how to address them.
What to expect
The visit will comprise of several elements:
Accreditation documents – some documents and information are required for Accreditation, but you are not asked to provide them with the online form. We will ask to see them during the visit:
1.8 Confirm arrangements for access to professional advice
1.9 Clear, workable emergency plan
2.5 Documentation plan
2.7 Documentation procedural manual
2.8 Security – confirm expert advice
3.1.1 How do you consult with your users and what do you do with this information?
3.1.5 How do you identify access issues?
3.2.3 Examples of marketing materials
Site tour – we will view your display/exhibition and storage areas on site, looking at elements from section two and three of the Standard including how information to visitors are made available. We would like to talk about:
- Care and conservation of collections
- Interpretation and display
- Facilities and signage
- Front of house arrangements
- Learning and access activities
Documentation in practice – we would like to better understand how the museum approaches documentation, we will ask for a demonstration during the visit. It would help if you have the accession register/inventory ready in advance.
We will choose up to three items on display and ask you to find the documentation related to them.
Up to three items will then be randomly selected from your accession register, and we will then ask you to find the items for us to view.
This is not a pass/fail exercise, it’s about understanding the systems you have in place.
We aim to keep the visit as informal as possible and please feel free to ask any questions you have during the day. We really value your thoughts so if you have any feedback, comments or suggestions about how we can do better please do let us know.
Read our blog!
Finally DON’T PANIC…
Museums Galleries Scotland have published a blog about Accreditation verification visits which is useful background reading.
Notification of decision
Your museum will receive a formal decision letter telling you the outcome of your submission two weeks after the Accreditation Panel meeting.
New applicants can only be awarded full Accredited status or have their application turned down.
For returning applicants, the Accreditation Panel can decide to:
- award provisional Accredited status
- award full Accredited status
- remove the museum from the Accreditation Scheme
- exclude the museum due to deliberate non-compliance
Arts Council England organises the Accreditation Panels, on each of which sit five or so museum professionals from across the UK, each of whom has appropriate experience and knowledge of the sector. There are usually six panel meetings per year, all of which our Quality Assurance Manager attends in order to introduce applicant museums and respond to questions.
The formal decision letter may also highlight areas for improvement and/or required actions deemed necessary by the panel.
Required actions and areas of improvement
Museums awarded provisional Accreditation status will receive a list of required actions to complete by the end of the provisional period (which can last for 1 to 12 months). Evidence that the relevant issues have been addressed must be submitted to the assessor who will then report back to the next panel.
Even museums awarded full Accreditation will usually be notified of areas of improvement. These are recommendations as to how the museum might focus its future development. Museums provide feedback on their progress towards meeting these recommendations at their next Accreditation Return.
Accreditation – and beyond
Achieving Accreditation shouldn’t be the end of the story. Your museum can build on its success in achieving the standard to leading the way with good and best practice.
Accredited museums must submit an Accreditation Return every three years to retain their status. The Accreditation Panel reviews these periodic returns to monitor a museum’s maintenance of the standards.
An Accredited museum will retain the status until its next scheduled review. You must let us know of any significant changes that could affect your museum’s status in the meantime. Significant disposals will trigger an immediate review and may result in a change of status.
If you have a Museum Mentor they will contribute to the Accreditation Return by helping you plan for collating your return and also writing a report on your museum’s ongoing ability to meet Accreditation requirements.
Each year, 10% of museums submitting Accreditation Returns will also receive a verification visit. This is the assessor’s chance to see a museum’s policies and plans in action as well as its display and storage areas.
How to prepare an Accreditation Return
Find out how to prepare for your Accreditation Return
Schedule of Accreditation Return
View the full schedule of invitations to submit an Accreditation Return
You can contact our Quality Assurance Manager for advice on any aspect of the Accreditation Scheme.
Quality Assurance Manager
Telephone: 0131 550 4124
You can also find out more about the Accreditation Scheme on the Arts Council England website.