The Putnam once again notched the highest national honor given to museums after earning re-accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums.

Accreditation signifies excellence to governments, funders and to the museum-going public. The Putnam achieved 37 of 37 “Characteristics of Excellence.”

While fewer than 4 percent of museums in the United States have received accreditation, the Putnam has been accredited since 1974. All accredited museums must undergo a reaccreditation review at least every 10 years to again be awarded accredited status.

Alliance Accreditation brings national recognition to a museum for its commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards and continued institutional improvement. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for more than 45 years, the Alliance’s museum accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation and public accountability.

It strengthens the museum profession by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely, and remain financially and ethically accountable in order to provide the best possible service to the public.

Putnam President/CEO Kim Findlay was notified of the museum’s re-accreditation early November following a rigorous self study process, a thorough site visit by AAM and deliberation by AAM’s national accreditation committee.

“As a result of this extensive process, AAM has concluded that the Putnam meets all core standards ranging from organizational health, to collections stewardship, to our educational role with exemplary practices noted in each area,” she said.

“Achieving this honor highlights that the Putnam is steadfastly committed to continuing its 150-year legacy of educating and connecting members of the community in meaningful ways for generations to come.”

In a letter to the Putnam, Amy Bartow-Melia, accreditation commission chair with AAM, wrote: “Through a rigorous process of self-assessment and review by its peers, [The Putnam] has shown itself to be a good steward of its resources held in the public trust and committed to a philosophy of continual institutional growth.

“We commend the museum's strategic plan … which is a model for the field.”

How to score a museum

Accreditation is a very rigorous but highly rewarding process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations. To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, and then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. AAM’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, considers the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation.

“Accredited museums are a community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence,” said Laura L. Lott, Alliance president and CEO. “Accreditation is clearly a significant achievement, of which both the institutions and the communities they serve can be extremely proud.”

Accrediting organization heaps praise on Putnam

The following are excerpts from the American Alliance of Museums’ report on the Putnam’s reaccreditation:

On vision and strategic plan: “We commend the Museum’s Strategic Plan — it’s well-presented vision, clearly defined objectives, and accompanying workplans which demonstrate thoughtful execution at the tactical level — which is a model for the field.”

On exhibits and collections care: “Exemplary Practices: The ‘Great Collections and You’ and ‘Powerful Objects’ exhibits were developed by staff as part of a Museum Master Plan. These exhibits are wonderful bridges between the collection and the community.”

On educational experiences: “Exemplary Practices: The IMMERSE Program is an innovative partnership with area schools, which allows classes to embed themselves in the Museum for a week-long deep dive utilizing the Museum’s educational resources. Teachers we spoke with during our visit were very enthused about the opportunity and its impact on their students.”

On work to ensure financial future: “Exemplary Practices: The Museum developed a Power Circle over a ten month period, meeting and touring 6-15 people at a time through the museum. At a culminating breakfast, these individuals pledged $760,000 of support to the Museum. In addition to the Power Circle, Business Partnerships ranging from $5,000-$25,000 which feature Museum Memberships for partner employees, and the Cultural Trust mentioned earlier, are all innovative ways to support organizational health.”

On public connection: “Exemplary Practices: A partnership with Western Illinois University brings graduate interns to the Museum, providing both with valuable knowledge and opportunities to learn and grow. For its 150th Anniversary, the Putnam invited the community in to a ‘Making History Together’ program, and 1,600 hundred photographs of community members with their favorite objects were taken. These now grace the walls of the Museum’s lobby.”

About the Putnam

The Putnam has been inspiring ideas, dialogue and interaction among people of all ages for 150 years. And today, we’re better than ever with hands-on fun for the whole family. Launch rockets or interact with a robot in the Science Center, “touch the untouchable” in the Augmented Reality Experience, visit our famous mummies in Unearthing Ancient Egypt, climb into a tree house in Black Earth | Big River or go back in time to see our region’s history in River, Prairie and People. Also experience internationally recognized traveling exhibits or take in a movie in the GIANT Screen Theater with a screen towering six stories tall. Our welcoming team is dedicated to helping you discover and explore in a friendly and engaging place.

For more information about current and upcoming events, exhibits and movies, visit

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