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AMA source of pride for three decades

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Albany Museum of Art has recently been awarded the honor of reaccreditation. Nick Nelson, Executive Director of the Albany Museum of Art, and Ford W. Bell, President and CEO of the American Association of Museums, have co-authored this article.

Most would agree that Americans are, by nature, a trusting people. But these days America’s faith in many of its important institutions — government, the media, the judicial system — have been severely shaken. Yet one institution our citizens continue to trust and support is the nation’s museums.

A recent national survey found America’s museums and libraries to be the most trusted sources of information by the public. That’s why the popularity of museums endures, and why an American Association of Museums survey found that museum attendance has jumped markedly in this troubled economy. No surprise, really, as tough times have historically produced a jump in museum visits (there was a dramatic spike after 9/11). People are looking for what one researcher calls “respite and renewal,” as well as a sanctuary of substance and authenticity in an increasingly virtual world.

That bond between museums and the public has been built, layer upon layer, over the nation’s history. It is rooted in the mission of all museums — education — but also in the ways in which museums have become part of their communities. We believe today’s museums are our communities, weaving cities and towns together culturally, intellectually and economically.

As the institutions charged with collecting, preserving and exhibiting our heritages - cultural, historic, scientific, natural - our museums preserve more than one billion objects, from George Washington’s militia uniform to a Frank Stella sculpture to African masks and Andy Warhol prints.

Moreover, museums are vital cogs in the American economy, a declaration confirmed by the statistics. America’s estimated 17,500 museums employ nearly half a million citizens, and through direct expenditures alone inject some $20 billion into the American economy. Further, museums play an essential role in the U.S. travel and tourism industry, with cultural travel now calculated to account for some $192 billion in economic activity annually according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Right here in the Southwest Georgia, the Albany Museum of Art contributes to the local economy by providing a draw for cultural tourism and by improving the quality of life in the community, making it more livable and attractive to business. Further, the AMA’s myriad programs reach into our schools and our community. The Museum’s School Tours and Traveling Trunk Outreach Programs served almost 5,000 children in our local schools. The Traveling Trunk Program brings works of African art like those on display in the AMA’s Miller Gallery to local classrooms for hands-on learning experiences.

The Albany Museum of Art is also widely recognized for its quality exhibitions. This year the Museum was honored with an Exhibition of the Year Award from the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries for “The Indian Gallery of Henry Inman”, an exhibition featuring 19th century portraits of Native American leaders from Georgia. Family Days, a partnership between the AMA and the City of Albany’s Recreation and Parks Department, draws record crowds to the Museum. This fall’s Family Day was enjoyed by 450 attendees. This program was the recipient of the Dorothy Mullins Art & Humanities Award from the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association in 2010.

The Albany Museum of Art is recognized in the community and state-wide for excellence. One metric that illustrates that this recognition is warranted is accreditation by the American Association of Museums. The Albany Museum of Art was recently re-accredited by AAM adding the distinction of national recognition for the quality of its programs and operations. This most recent accolade makes the AMA one of only 15 museums in the State of Georgia to be accredited. Furthermore, of America’s estimated 17,500 museums, only 778 are accredited.

What does accreditation mean? It means that the Albany Museum of Art has taken it upon itself to see how they measure up to the highest standards of the museum field. The museum has not only met the standards, it has exceeded them, putting it among the 4.5 percent of U.S. museums to be accredited by AAM. Simply, the Albany Museum of Art is among the best museums in the country, on a par with such other accredited museums as the Smithsonian in Washington, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Such museums are also a source of something perhaps less tangible, but no less valuable: civic pride. Residents of Albany and Southwest Georgia can be proud that in their midst they boast one of the country’s finest museums, whose primary objective is to serve the community better every day. Show your pride in Albany and Southwest Georgia. Visit the AMA today.