Since this is my inaugural post on this blog, I feel like I should begin by introducing myself. My name is Jessica Baber and I am the Exhibits Coordinator at the museum. I have a few different responsibilities, but the one I want to share with you today is my position as chair of a new committee. A few months ago the director came to me and explained a new self-assessment program she would like the museum to complete called the Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPs), a self-evaluation process designed by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).
The program was created by AASLH for small to mid-sized history museums to help these institutions become aware of standards in the museum field and to give them a way of evaluating their own current practices against those standards. The program breaks a museum down into six divisions: Mission, Vision and Governance, Audience, Interpretation, Stewardship of Collections, Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes, and Management. In each of these sections, the relevant current standards have been laid out. For each standard a series of performance indicator questions are posed. As the museum staff answers these questions, it will become clear what needs to change within the museum to meet that standard.
In order to complete this self-assessment, a group of museum employees have been assembled into a committee. The group is made up of representatives from nearly all the divisions and departments within the museum including; collections, exhibits, education, security, retail, development, and outreach. The goal for our group is to work through all five sections of the program (because our museum is not responsible for any historic structures, that section will not be completed) and make recommendations for projects that will ensure that the museum’s practices meet the highest standards in the museum field.
For those who regularly follow our blog, you probably already know that two years ago the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki became the first tribal museum to receive accreditation from the American Association of Museums. The accreditation process was a long one, full of assessing strengths and improving weaknesses. The Museum worked for years to accomplish this goal, and during that process gained a strong sense of self-awareness. However, as time passes and the museum field develops, standards are constantly being reviewed and revised. Therefore, it has become a priority of our museum to make sure that we are adhering to the latest acceptable practices. The StEPs program will enable us realize this goal by allowing us to identify weaknesses that exist and help us plan ways to solve problems.
Our committee has met a few times and we are making progress. It is our hope that through this process we can make continue to move down the path of sustaining the highest standards possible.