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Ask the Expert Q&A 25 November 2016: Confused by Accreditation? – with Helen Thornton

Helen Thornton, Yorkshire Regional Accreditation Advisor at Museum Development Yorkshire, will be answering your questions on Accreditation on Friday 25 November between 2-3pm GMT.

Helen Thornton is the Regional Accreditation Advisor for Yorkshire and specialises in registrar documentation and collections management areas. 

Confused by Accreditation?

Accreditation is the national UK standard for museums and galleries. It defines good practice and agreed procedures. It is useful to qualify under this scheme to become a recognised professional institution. This can help secure funding, develop partnerships, strengthen profiles and help to facilitate future loans of collection items.

So who is eligible to apply?

Accreditation is open to any establishment that qualifies under the Museum Association’s 1998 definition of a museum. That is they must allow people to explore, enjoy and learn from collections as well as having a responsibility to look after the objects. Establishments must have a long-term collection of artefacts, a formal constitution and be able to demonstrate at least two years of accounts. They must meet legal, ethical and safety requirements and be committed to future planning.

Where do I apply?

All applications are sent to and assessed by Arts Council England who run the Accreditation scheme. The Arts Council also run in partnership with CyMAL: Museum, Archives, Libraries Wales; Museums Galleries Scotland and the Northern Ireland Museum Council. You may remember this used to be administered by the MLA (Museum Libraries and Archive Service) until this was taken over by the Arts Council in 2011.


 The Application Process 

Applying for Accreditation or renewing existing applications can be both puzzling and daunting. At first the application form can seem over-whelming. The key is to break each section down and deal with it piece by piece to make the whole picture come together.

The form itself is divided into three areas, each with detailed accompanying notes guiding the user through the sub-sections. Taking on this much information can often be confusing and you may need help.

Where Can I get help?

I am the Regional Accreditation Advisor for Yorkshire.

My role is to assist museums and galleries in the Yorkshire area with their Accreditation applications and renewals. This can include guidance about technical issues with the form, or else specific queries about the procedures and policies needed for the application. I am also here to help if you are a first time applicant and need pointing in the right direction through the different application steps.

I have a background working in museums with a range of experience which spans 8 years. I specialise in registrar, documentation and collections management areas within a curatorial remit.

I will be available online on the 25 November at 2pm to answer any Accreditation queries you have.

Helen Thornton, Yorkshire Regional Accreditation Advisor.

Helen Thornton, will be answering your questions on Accreditation on Friday 25 November 2016 between 2-3pm GMT.

You can post questions before the Q & A session, on 25 November, or you can converse in real time with our expert. You can use the comment box below to post a question, or you can use twitter with the hashtag  #mdyask.

Comments have to be moderated, to protect the blog from spam, so if your comment doesn’t appear straight away, don’t worry, we’ll get to it as quickly as we can.

If you have a problem submitting questions, either in the comment box, or via twitter, please email your questions to [email protected]

If you have ideas for subjects you’d like to see us cover in future, or would like to take questions yourself, please get in contact with us and let us know.

Your Comments

  1. Gillian Waters |

    What would you say are the key pitfalls to avoid in submitting for accreditation of a collection?

  2. Helen Thornton |

    Hi Gillian,
    Many thanks for your question. When applying for or renewing Accreditation I would make sure that you have read the guidelines carefully and are using the most up-to-date version of these. The Arts Council Accreditation guidelines can be found under the following link:


    If you are renewing your application, then take the time to read through the recommendations made in your previous submission. These will be listed in a letter under ‘Areas for Improvement’ sent by the Accreditation Team at the Arts Council. Take the time out to demonstrate how you have reviewed, met and developed these targets.
    Make sure that your policies have been signed off by the appropriate governing members and that proof of this is submitted as part of your returns.

    Try to break down the application into small sections, otherwise the process can be daunting. Delegate certain portions of this out to other staff to complete. Make sure your responses are clear and tie up with your Forward Plan and mission statement.

  3. Gillian Waters |

    Thanks Helen- what would you say the chief benefits of accreditation are for museums?

  4. Helen Thornton |

    Hi Gillian,

    Becoming accredited offers many long-term advantages. Becoming accredited acts as a certified professional ‘seal of approval’ and demonstrates that museums and galleries are adhering to recognised national working standards set by the Arts Council. This in turn can help in the future for private and public funding applications, negotiating loans and endorsing investors’ confidence. These standards also set a benchmark for museums which can then drive and help to develop future performance. Maintaining these standards also serves as a protection for museums to justify and align their relevance and position within the heritage environment. Becoming accredited also makes institutions aware of their users’ needs and how to target and develop these.
    In essence becoming accredited helps to develop partnerships, raises profiles, justifies support and sets professional standards.

  5. Gillian Waters |

    Rachel Wade ‏ asks
    Question for today’s #MDYAsk session – what training in #accreditation is available for museum & gallery staff?

  6. Helen Thornton |

    Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for your question. Unfortunately there isn’t any formal training available as such but there are policies and sections which you can read up on to help you prepare for your application. These can be found on the Arts Council website:


    You can also seek advice from myself, the Yorkshire Regional Accreditation Advisor at [email protected]. I am here to answer any questions about the process which you may have. I also offer advice surgeries for museums undergoing their Accreditation application where you can visit me during a ‘drop-in’ session. Your local Museum Development Officers are also on hand to help. They can be reached be following the link below:


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