The Northwestern University Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art has won accreditation from the American Association of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition for a museum in the United States.

Fewer than 800 of the country’s nearly 17,500 museums have obtained this distinction, which signifies excellence to supporters, the public, funding agencies and other museums. The AAM’s rigorous accreditation program is the museum field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation, and accountability.

The Block Museum’s accreditation status comes after a yearlong self-study conducted by the Block’s staff and board of advisors and a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. The AAM’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, awarded accreditation after considering the Block’s self-study and the peer report.

The achievement caps a series of recent milestones reached by the Block, including the appointment of David A. Robertson, the Block’s Ellen Philips Katz Director, as president of the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries, and the induction of senior curator Debora Wood into the prestigious Print Council of America.

The 2007–08 academic year alone saw the co-publication with Northwestern University Press of two major exhibition catalogues, “Casting a Shadow: Creating the Alfred Hitchcock Film” and “Design in the Age of Darwin: From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright.” In the meantime the museum traveled its “Casting a Shadow” exhibition to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Gallery in Beverly Hills, Calif., and is mounting the exhibition at the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum für Film und Fernschen in Berlin, Germany, in winter 2009 as part of the Berlin Film Festival.

“These accomplishments represent the maturation of the old Block Gallery into a fully engaged Block Museum,” said Christine O. Robb, chair of the Block’s board of advisors. (Opened as a gallery in 1980 with funds from art patrons Mary and Leigh B. Block, the gallery was renamed the Block Museum by Northwestern’s trustees in 1998. Construction of a new state-of-art facility, designed by architect Dirk Lohan and substantially funded by a generous gift from Paul Leffmann, followed.)

“Our achievements were possible because of a lot of team work,” said Robertson, the Block’s Ellen Philips Katz Director. “The Block staff is extraordinarily hard working and talented; the board of advisors and the Block’s supporters backed us all the way, while Northwestern’s administration, offered constant encouragement and extraordinary assistance to make these things happen.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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