As an Accreditation assessor one of the most enjoyable parts of my job is coming out to the museums to do a verification visit, which is a shame really as the words ’verification visit’ still seem to strike fear into the heart of many museums. I want to reassure you I am not scary and the visit will not be either.
Verification visits are a chance for me to come out to the museum and meet with you on your own turf. I will need to see certain things, after all it is part of the Accreditation assessment, but the visits are also a chance for you to talk to me about how MGS and the Accreditation Scheme can support you and your museum in your own aspirations.
I was very fortunate over 2016 to be able to get out to as many museums as I did (and I know my colleagues are envious); I do hope to be getting out to as many museums in 2017.
So what actually happens?
First let me reassure that an Accreditation visit is never sprung on you! I won’t turn up unexpectedly, unannounced; you will always have agreed with me a convenient time and date for the visit. When I went to Art Collection, University of Stirling in the summer we re-arranged the date a few times to make sure all three members of staff were going to be able to be present; as long as you talk to me I will be as flexible as my diary will allow. Verification visits can be a good time to remind your governing body of what the museum needs to do to maintain the standard and be an opportunity for internal advocacy. I don’t mind who I meet and am happy to talk to chairs, principals, councillors, trustees or whoever you need me to; I need to meet for the visit at least one person that is able to show me round the display areas, into the stores, provide me with access to documents that you have not been sent as part of the assessment (for example the emergency plan and security review report), and show me the collections documentation. This often means in reality I will speak to a number of people but can be just one person.
A verification takes somewhere between half and a full day. It really depends on how big your site is and how much discussion we need to have. In 2016 for both the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Maritime, I did verification visits to multiple sites in one day although for most organisations a verification visit will be just one site on the day.
In advance of the visit I will send to you via email a copy of the checklist I have to complete as part of the visit. This is a prompt list for me so that I remember to ask you about all the elements that I need to! But it also means I shouldn’t be asking you for information you are not expecting. I normally start with looking at the documents first, mainly so I can get the reward of going to see your displays and stores after doing the paperwork as I do miss working in an actual museum and being hands-on with objects. But if you would rather do it the other way round we can.
Don’t panic about your Collections Audit!
The collection audit is often the section that people worry about most. What the audit is designed to do is to check that your documentation system (whether computer or paper based) works so that you are able to find objects and their information effectively. I normally look for at least three objects with the numbers taken from the register and catalogue and also do the reverse by taking at least three numbers from objects in the store and displays and try to find in the register and catalogue. If you can’t find an object it will not mean that you will fail Accreditation, rather that we will need to have a chat about how your system is supposed to work and why it didn’t in this case. If we can’t find objects or their information, it will mean that there will be a development area identified to help you develop your documentation system to make it more effective.
All the way through the visit, you will have plenty of time to ask me any questions you want to and I would strongly encourage you to do that. My hope is that you enjoy the visit as much as I do, it is a chance to show off the amazing things your museum does to appreciative audience. I look forward to coming out to as many museums as I can manage in 2017 – see you soon!