The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News has received accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), becoming the first institution in Virginia and the 12th in the country to be accredited by both AZA and the American Association of Museums (AAM).
The accreditation was granted Tuesday, March 24, following a hearing in Oklahoma City.
“The staff has worked for nearly two years in preparation for this accreditation,” said VLM Executive Director Page Hayhurst. “It is recognition by our peers that we meet the highest standard in the country and that is possible only with the staff's passion for their work and their institution.”
The Virginia Living Museum has been accredited by the American Association of Museums since 1976. “This means that the VLM had already achieved high standards for institutional operations,” said Hayhurst. “But with animal care being such an important element at the museum it was important for us to also achieve the highest standard that is represented by AZA accreditation.”
“Virginia Living Museum has been awarded AZA accreditation because of its high standards in every aspect of its operations,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “Newport News should be proud to have one of the top facilities in North America as a valuable community asset and economic engine.”
To be accredited, the museum underwent a thorough investigation to ensure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process in order to be members of the Association, and are required to resubmit to this process every five years.
“Every visit you make to Virginia Living Museum supports wildlife conservation.” Maddy added. “It’s an opportunity for families to get together and connect with conservation.”
The mission of the AZA Accreditation Commission is to establish, uphold, and raise the highest zoological and aquarium industry standards through self-evaluation, on-site inspection, and peer review. The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution's operation in areas such as animal care (including living environment and daily enrichment), keeper training, safety for animals, staff and visitors, educational programs, conservation efforts, veterinary programs, financial stability, risk management, visitor services, and other areas.
The inspection team prepares an extensive written report for the Accreditation Commission. Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal Commission hearing, after which accreditation is granted, tabled, or denied. Any institution that is denied may reapply one year after the Commission’s decision is made.
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting an institution dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, the AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, please visit www.aza.org.
Currently 217 institutions are accredited by AZA and 776 institutions are accredited by AAM. Joint accreditation is held by the city zoos in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Louisville, Oklahoma City, San Diego and Tulsa, plus the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio, the Natural Science Center in Greensboro, N.C., the New England Aquarium in Boston and the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
The Virginia Living Museum is a private non-profit museum that has been in operation since 1966. It exhibits more than 250 species that depict the natural heritage of Virginia from the mountains to the sea. The museum’s mission is connecting people to nature through educational experiences that promote conservation. In addition to the two accreditations, the museum has achieved the highest four star rating for the past four years from Charity Navigator, America's premier independent charity evaluator.