If the Harwood Museum of Art had been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums when much-lauded exhibition “Mabel Dodge Luhan and Company: American Moderns and the West” was being organized, it would have been cheaper and much easier to pull off, according to Harwood Executive Director Richard Tobin.
The show — which opened here May 22, 2016, and has since gone on tour to the Albuquerque Museum and now is at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, New York — called upon myriad resources in order to bring together artworks from various collectors and institutions. During that process, one of the first things a curator would say would be, “Is your museum accredited?”
To get around that and wade through red tape was expensive and time-consuming, according to Tobin. But now, the process that began several years, a couple of directors, lots of staff and mucho dinero ago has finally come to fruition. On Feb. 24, the Harwood Museum of Art was notified by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) that the Harwood had been awarded accreditation by the AAM Accreditation Commission.
To quote from the award letter: “Accreditation means the museum meets National Standards and Best Practices for U.S. Museums and joins a community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence. Through a rigorous process of self-assessment and review by its peers, the museum 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.”
Tobin was relieved at the news, but was quick to attribute the work of many staff, past and present, for the enormous amount of work to bring the museum up to speed. Tobin’s predecessor as director, Susan Longhenry, “formally started the process in 2010,” he said. “It was kind of put on hold when she left and we didn’t have a director,” but it was ongoing. Once awarded, the notice “essentially tells the public, it tells the community, it tells any kind of donors that we are following best practices and national standards, that we have a fiduciary responsibility to keep the work preserved, exhibited and interpreted in accordance to the best practices in museums all over the country.”
AAM is not about to let institutions like the Harwood rest on their laurels. Accreditation is an ongoing process that includes periodic “self-study.” According to the award letter signed by Burt Logan, chair of the accreditation commission, “To help ensure that accredited museums maintain their level of professional performance they must undergo periodic re-accreditation reviews. The museum’s next self-study is due March 1, 2026.”
The letter continues, “At the time of the next review, the Commission will expect to see increased representation of Taos’ diverse community at all levels in the museum and that the overarching interpretive plan described in the Interpretive Engagement section of the institutional plan has been created. We will also look for evidence that the museum has taken a strategic approach to ensuring the viability of its museum store operations.”
In the meantime, the Harwood is continuing its best practices by displaying the spring edition of its ongoing “Continuum: Light, Space and Time” series, which opened with a members preview Thursday (March 2). The show is in the process of rotating various works over time in an effort to provide the viewer with various chapters in its effort to tell the story of art in Taos from “Blumenschein to Bell.”
The museum is located at 238 Ledoux St. For more information on exhibits and programs, visit harwoodmuseum.org or call (575) 758-9826.