Faces from the Field: Tampa Bay History Center

By Laura Lott

The Tampa Bay History Center was among the first museums to apply for AAM Accreditation after the program's streamlining and reinvention in 2014. The museum is also one of the first to participate fully in the Continuum of Excellence, completing the AAM Pledge of Excellence, AASLH StEPS Program, MAP (Community Engagement), Core Documents Verification, and ultimately receiving AAM Accreditation shortly after I stopped by to discuss "Life on Continuum" with Executive Director, C.J. Roberts, and Associate Director of Advancement, Andrea Nalls, in August 2015.

Photo: Laura Lott, C.J. Roberts, and Andrea Nalls tour a collections space at the Tampa Bay History Center
Lott, Nalls, and Roberts (L-R) tour a collections space at the Tampa Bay History Center.

On the Continuum of Excellence

The Tampa Bay History Center opened its doors in 2009. When I asked C.J. and Andrea when they decided to go through Accreditation, they said it had been on their radar since the very beginning. I asked what steps they took to prepare and what they thought of the new Continuum and streamlined Accreditation program. The following video shows and tells their answer.


My visit to the Tampa Bay History Center was a great opportunity to learn about the challenges staff encountered along the way and motivations that led them through it. This visit drove home a few major themes I think you'd find are consistent among successful Continuum participants:

Coming Together

I asked Andrea how she divvied up the work among her team members, but her answer was a great reminder of the strength of these programs in bringing teams together (not dividing up the work).


A Community Asset

I asked C.J. and Andrea what the most difficult part of going through Accreditation was and they told me it was finding a way to measure and demonstrate their community involvement. The Characteristics of Excellence place high expectations on a museum's public trust and accountability. Most of these standards are reflected in the museum's community involvement. Community had been central to the Tampa Bay History Center from the very beginning, but they weren't sure how to know whether it was "enough" to meet the Accreditation Commission's expectations.

Taking it Home

One of the biggest things I learned through my visit with the Tampa Bay History Center was how much of a team-building process the Continuum of Excellence can be for an organization. C.J. told me that his executive team now has a better understanding of the whole organization and how the different pieces fit together than they would had they not gone through this kind of process.

The outcomes they hoped to achieve are (1) an enormous sense of pride for the institution having gone through the process and (2) the ability to go back to those community leaders, funders and founders of the museum who made it what it is today--back in the 1980s--and to be able to tell them that they had gone through this process and they were abiding by the highest standards in the museum community. That stewardship--of the entire community's work and investment--was another piece that C.J. was really committed to.

Thanks to C.J. and Andrea for a most excellent experience!


Special thanks to Nicole Abbett for capturing photo and video of Laura's visit to the Tampa Bay History Center!

Tampa Bay History Center

Faces Focus:

The Continuum of Excellence

Mission:

The Tampa Bay History Center serves as a dynamic and entertaining learning resource that inspires a sense of place and pride for diverse audiences of all ages through interactive educational programs and engaging exhibitions.

Host(s):

C.J. Roberts, Executive Director
Andrea Nalls, Associate Director of Advancement

Governance:

Private Non-Profit

Founded:

1986

Budget:

$2.5 million

Attendance:

100,000

Paid Staff:

22

Unpaid Staff/Volunteers:

90

Alliance and Excellence Program Participation:

Tier 3 Museum Members (since 1992)
Peer Review (C.J. Roberts)
StEPS - Gold (2013-2015)
Pledge of Excellence (2014)
Museum Assessment Program (Community Engagement) (2014)
Core Documents Verification Program (2014)
Accreditation (2015)

Strategic Connection:

Icon: Excellence Ribbon with Star from AAM's 2016-2020 Strategic Plan Graphic

Excellence via the Continuum of Excellence and Community Engagement