The American Alliance of Museums just announced the ten museums chosen to participate in the first session of the Small Museums Accreditation Academy. We were thrilled to see three AASLH members on the list, including two participants in AASLH’s Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations. The Academy is a new initiative designed to help smaller institutions work towards AAM accreditation, an important and prestigious step for museums committed to best practices and national standards. Congratulations to these institutions!

Bainbridge Island Historical Museum (AASLH member since 2005, enrolled in StEPs since 2010, 2014 Award of Merit winner)

This delightful Washington museum is housed in a 1908 schoolhouse. The Bainbridge Island Historical Society has been active since 1930’s, and the schoolhouse has been used as a museum since its donation to the Society in 1971. Since then, the schoolhouse has been moved to two different locations as the museum grew and needed more land and exhibit space. Today, the museum preserves and shares the history of Bainbridge Island through family friendly exhibits on Ansel Adams photography of the area, Japanese American internment, early Native American use of the island’s resources, 19th century immigrant communities, and more. They also have a research library open to the public.

Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University (AASLH member since 1983, enrolled in StEPs since 2011)

The Mountain Heritage Center in North Carolina is a regional resource for education and research that celebrates the natural and cultural heritage of the southern Appalachians. Through exhibits, publications, and events, visitors can discover the rich traditions of the mountains, see the Appalachian region from new perspectives, and come away with an enhanced understanding of its land, culture, and people. The Center’s galleries have been open to the public since 1979, and they boast a collection of over 10,000 artifacts including agricultural implements, logging and woodworking tools, textiles, and transportation equipment.

University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses (AASLH member since 1979)

The University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses complex serves as a cultural center for the university community and beyond. Among its holdings are Southern folk art, Greek and Roman antiquities, 19th century scientific instruments, and American fine art. Part of the museum complex is Rowan Oak, a historic literary legacy that was once the home of William Faulker, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The Museum also owns the Walton-Young Historic House – once home to critic and satirist Stark Young. The museum complex began with the opening of the Mary Buie Museum in 1939 as a result of the vision of Mary Skipwith Buie of Oxford, an avid collector and an academically trained artist.  Today, the University Museum maintains their founders’ dedication to preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting the art and cultural heritage of Mississippi and of the American South.


The Small Museums Accreditation Academy is a new initiative funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and assisted by an Advisory Panel of leaders in the museum field. It is a year-long readiness program to make the AAM’s accreditation process more accessible to smaller institutions. At the end of the program, the participating museums will emerge with a stronger culture of excellence and be poised to apply for accreditation.


The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is AASLH’s self-study standards program designed specifically for small- to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions. Through a workbook, online resources, and an online community, organizations enrolled in StEPS assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against nationally recognized standards. It is often used to prepare for accreditation programs.