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.
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:
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!