Assessment recommends museum seeks accreditation

WILLMAR -- An assessment report recommends the Kandiyohi County Historical Society museum seek accreditation from the American Association of Museums.

WILLMAR -- An assessment report recommends the Kandiyohi County Historical Society museum seek accreditation from the American Association of Museums.

Accreditation would help the museum obtain grants and enhance the professional image of the museum, says Mona Nelson, executive director of the Kandiyohi County Historical Society.

Nelson said four other museums in Minnesota are accredited. The Stearns County Museum in St. Cloud is the only county museum to be accredited. Other accredited museums are the Minnesota Institute of Arts, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Science Museum.

"It doesn't mean that other museums couldn't be accredited,'' said Nelson. "It's just that they haven't gone through the process.''

The recommendation was made in an institutional assessment report by Robert Drake on behalf of the Museum Assessment Program of the American Association of Museums. He visited the museum last fall. Drake is manager of the Minnesota Historical Society's Forest History Center in Grand Rapids. Nelson believes funding agencies would look more favorably on accredited museums.


"Probably (with) federal agencies, it would be something they would notice right away,'' said Nelson. "There aren't that many of them in Minnesota. In other states, there are a number of county museums that are accredited.''

Drake's assessment is a good first step toward seeking accreditation, said Nelson. "It is a compliment that he thinks we are ready for that step,'' she said.

Nelson said the Museum Assessment Program offers four different assessments. The assessment conducted by Drake was an institutional assessment. The last time the Kandiyohi County museum had an institutional assessment was in 1987.

"We decided to go with the institutional assessment again because it had been so long since we've done one,'' said Nelson. "One of the main reasons we did it was to analyze where we are at with staff. We just kind of need to plan ahead for replacing the staff when that time comes.''

Drake said the Kandiyohi County museum has one of the most professionally managed storage and record-keeping facilities.

"We have done an excellent job with that,'' said Nelson. "In the museum field, it's called conservation and preservation, and we've received grant after grant in that area for everything from humidity control to shelving in storage areas to acid-free archival boxes and supplies.

"We've worked on that continually for more than a decade. All of our capital projects have been geared toward that preservation and conservation.

That's the reason we've received these grants is because we have an excellent track record on that.''


Drake said the local Historical Society is blessed with a dedicated, well-trained and professional staff, board, members and volunteers. "It is rewarding to see such commitment and dedication from all segments of the society,'' he wrote.

Drake also said the Historical Society is extremely strong and provides leadership in its communities and to other historical societies.

Among other recommendations:

- Specify action steps, timeline, responsibilities and budget in the five-year plan.

- Extend board members' terms from one three-year term to two consecutive three-year terms. Drake said the society would benefit from a board member's experience in learning the role and function of the board.

- Broaden the board's geographic representation and increase ethnic and youth membership.

- Acknowledge the county commissioners for their increasing financial commitment to the society, and congratulate the city of Willmar for its $100,000 commitment to restoration of the Sperry House.

- Discuss development of a tourist information center with the city, Chamber of Commerce, and Convention and Visitors Bureau.


- Consider upgrading the main exhibition hall, and consider closing the agricultural warehouse, which Drake said is unsafe in its present form for the general public.

- Develop a marketing and public relations plan.

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