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Plains garners accreditation

A process Plains Art Museum officials began 20 years ago has come to fruition. The museum will announce next week that it has been accredited by the American Association of Museums. A private, nonprofit organization, the association gives its sea...

A process Plains Art Museum officials began 20 years ago has come to fruition.

The museum will announce next week that it has been accredited by the American Association of Museums.

A private, nonprofit organization, the association gives its seal of approval to art, science and history museums nationwide.

Plains President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Pauley said the accreditation signals the museum "operates within professional standards; that we have proven that we're committed to institutional improvement; and public service and accountability are things we take seriously."

Accreditation tells other museums that may loan exhibitions to the Plains and potential donors that museum staff know how to take care of items it borrows, he said.

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Plains Curator Rusty Freeman said the museum had to show the association that it meets standards in five areas: mission; governing structure; interpretation and presentation of exhibits; stewardship of its collections and financial reliability.

Plains Vice President of Operations Ben Clapp said the museum's move from Moorhead to its current Fargo location was undertaken mostly to gain accreditation.

The old location, which now houses the Rourke Art Museum, was a roadblock to accreditation.

"We couldn't hold art appropriately, more with humidity than with temperature," Clapp said.

That's what sent the Plains looking for a new home starting in the early 1980s. The accreditation process began in earnest after the Plains moved into its current location in 1997.

Pauley said the actual accreditation process started about two years ago with concentrated work by museum staff.

Museum officials will announce the accreditation in a Thursday news conference.

An open house celebration will be held from noon to 6 p.m. March 14, with free admission, guided tours, art activities and music.

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The association is the main accrediting agency for museums in the United States.

In Minnesota, it has accredited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; the Minnesota History Center and the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul and the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud.

The only other accredited museum in North Dakota is the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541

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