South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Users and Their Experience

Accredited museums are welcoming and accessible. They exhibit collections and have a planned approach to identifying and providing a good quality service for a broad range of users


accessibility and reaching a broad range of users- access is another ‘thread’ which underpins this section but also runs throughout the whole standard

having a planned approach – everything should derive from your Museum’s Forward Plan

good quality – being clear about what you do, why you are doing it and whether you are doing it well

Users and Non-users

Accredited museums must understand who their users (visitors) and non users (potential visitors) are through regular consultation, data collection and research.

Assessor’s questions

  • Are the current users of the museum identified in the relevant section of the forward plan/audience development plan?
  • What data does the museum currently collect? How frequently is data collected?
  • Does consultation with users and non-users go into an appropriate depth (for example, in relation to services provided and users’ needs)?
  • Does the museum demonstrate an awareness of potential users and groups not currently accessing the museum?
  • QIS How well does the museum engage with a variety of users and partners in the planning and development of its service?

Assess Users’ Needs

Accredited museums must evaluate and analyse information to assess users’ needs to make sense of the data collected and to use it to measure how well the museum is meeting the needs of its current visitors and to determine whether there are identified barriers that can be addressed to encourage those who do not visit.

Assessor’s questions

  • How does the museum evaluate and analyse collected information and data? How does the museum use the analysis?
  • Is the analysis and evaluation to a sufficient level of detail?
  • Is evaluation embedded into all activities so user experience can be monitored and outcomes for users reported and understood?
  • Has the museum identified clear benchmarks to map evaluation against, for example, visitor numbers for different types of visitors in each year, such as families, school groups etc?
  • QIS How well does the museum or service identify its audience focus/target groups and their needs?

Courtesy and Care

Accredited museums must have a culture of customer care with arrangements in place to make sure all users are treated with courtesy and care. This includes training, induction a visible mission statement or customer charter.

This section can be bypassed if the museum has VAQAS, VAQAS Cymru or VisitScotland Quality Assurance Scheme Certification.


  • VAQAS – Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme run by Visit England

Assessor’s questions

  • Does the museum participate in the VAQAS, VAQAS Cymru, VisitScotland Quality Assurance Scheme, Welcome Host schemes or similar?
  • Does the museum have a customer charter, customer service code of practice, visible mission statement that outlines a commitment to offer a good service for all users to the museum?
  • Do the induction arrangements for the workforce include customer care? Are these regularly reviewed?
  • Is there a clear complaints procedure for visitors to use if an issue cannot be resolved immediately? Is there a plan in place to manage complaints?
  • How does the museum ensure that users of the museum are treated with courtesy and care, including telephone callers who may be considering visiting the museum?
  • How does the museum demonstrate workforce awareness of the available facilities and equipment to assist disabled users and users who may have additional needs?
  • If the museum has a web presence, does the website provide clear up to date information on opening hours, seasonal events, access information, ad a telephone number and email address for enquiries?
  • QIS How well does the museum or service make provision for those with additional needs?

User Needs

Accredited museums take account of users’ needs, guided by a policy statement setting out a commitment to give everyone access to collections and associated information.

Museums must provide evidence that access issues are being identified and addressed. Theyshould have an up-to-date access assessment (carried out within the last five years or more recently if there has been significant change to buildings or displays).

Museum must have and submit an access policy statement informed by the access assessment and developed with reference to consultation with users. The access policy statement will state the museum’s ethos towards accessibility. It should explain how access is provided and developed and the rationale for the choice of provision. The statement must be formally approved and evidence of approval submitted with your application/return.

Assessor’s questions

  • Has the museum conducted an assessment of access needs?
  • Does the museum have a clear access policy statement?
  • Is that statement widely shared, so users or potential users can find it?
  • How is the statement integrated within relevant museum’s policy documents?
  • How does it guide forward planning?
  • Does the access policy statement cover physical, intellectual, social, geographical and cultural access?
  • How does the museum address the different needs of users and potential users?
  • Are the induction arrangements for the workforce guided by the access policy statement? Are they regularly reviewed?
  • Have museums in Wales considered the need to provide information for Welsh language speakers?
  • If based in an area of wide cultural diversity, has the museum explored ways of providing exhibit information in other languages?
  • Are access details clear on the website?
  • QIS How well does the museum or service encourage and promote access and inclusion?

Tourism and local priorities

Accredited museums must respond to tourism and local priorities where appropriate. They must show that they understand their wider role in the community and their potential to contribute to local priorities, through partnerships, participation in local events and initiatives and involving the local authority and community groups in its consultation.

Assessor’s questions

  • Does the museum show an awareness of its role in the wider community in the forward plan?
  • Is the museum outward-facing?
  • Does the museum evidence partnerships?
  • Does the museum seek opportunities to work in partnership with others?
  • How does the museum work with partners to strengthen its user offer?
  • Does the museum reference relevant local/ regional/national tourism strategies and initiatives in its forward plan?
  • Has the museum previously received funds through commissioned work or supported locally-commissioned work in association with a range of partners?
  • QIS How well does the museum forge new partnerships and improve the effectiveness of existing ones?


Accredited museums must have adequate and accessible facilities to meet the needs of the expected number and range of users or provide information about nearby facilities.

This section only applies to museums that are not VAQAS accredited


VAQAS – Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme run by Visit England

Assessor’s questions

  • What are the museum’s current opening arrangements? Are they appropriate to the size, nature and location of the museum? In cases where opening arrangements are restricted, what are the restrictions and why do they apply?
  • What user facilities are available on site?
  • How are users made aware of facilities and how to access them, especially in cases where these are located away from the museum site?
  • What maintenance/cleaning schedules for public places are in place at the museum?
  • Do staff have mechanisms in place to deal with ‘on the spot’ issues regarding maintenance and cleaning?
  • Are the museum’s cleaning procedures guided by the collection care and conservation policy?
  • What maintenance schedules for displays, interactive and other interpretative tools are in place at the museum?

For nationally styled museums:

  • How does the museum ensure that the quality of facilities is appropriate to its size and scale?
  • How does the museum ensure that the facilities are appropriate, accessible and affordable?
  • Does the museum benchmark its facilities with other nationally styled and national museums? If so which ones?
  • What facilities are available to support researchers (see requirement 3.3.2)?

Signs and Directions

Accredited museums must have appropriate signs and directions inside and outside the building.

Assessor’s questions

  • What external signs are there?
  • Are these effective?
  • What action does the museum take if placing external signs is beyond its direct control?
  • How does the museum help visitors to navigate their way round the museum and locate facilities?
  • Is signage available in languages other than English?

Effective Communication

Accredited museums must communicate effectively with users and potential users through a range of accessible marketing and promotional activities

Assessor’s questions

  • What promotional and marketing material is available?
  • Does the published information cover the requirements listed above?
  • Is promotional/marketing material available in accessible formats?
  • Does the museum’s website meet standard accessibility formats?
  • Does marketing/promotional material match users and potential users in terms of content and medium used?
  • In cases where restrictions are in place what alternative arrangements have been made on site so that users can access the museum’s collections?
  • Has the use of languages other than English been considered?
  • Does the museum have a public phone number that is manned or an email address for specific queries a visitor may have?
  • QIS How well is the museum or service marketed?

Interpretative Methods

Accredited museums must exhibit their collections using a variety of interpretative methods.

Assessor’s questions

  • Is the museum’s interpretation of the collection appropriately diverse?
  • Is there an appropriate fit between the interpretative methods used and the users they seek to reach?
  • Have alternative methods of interpretation been considered in order to attract current non-users, for example, when considering regimental museums how might audiences be attracted to visit who do not have a connection to that regiment?
  • What materials, tools and activities does the museum use to engage users with the collections and communicate collections information?
  • QIS How well does the interpretation invite and stimulate learning?

Research Purposes

Accredited museums provide access to the collections and associated information for research purposes and other forms of engagement.

Assessor’s questions

  • What percentage of the museum’s permanent collection is on display?
  • How are users able to access collections in store?
  • What does this look like/comprise?
  • What is the museum’s current outreach offer?
  • How does the museum facilitate collections research?
  • Is there an online presence, such as online exhibitions or collections database?
  • QIS How well does the museum support and promote research into the collections and ensure it is disseminated?
  • QIS How well has the museum improved its collection documentation in order to improve public access and knowledge?

For nationally styled museums:

  • How does the museum support other museums working in similar fields?
  • What research does the museum undertake/has the museum undertaken?
  • What staffing arrangements are in place to support research at the museum?
  • What is the nature of the research support and faculties provided?

Learning and Discovery

Accredited museums provide effective and stimulating learning and discovery experiences focused on the collections.

Assessor’s questions

  • Is the museum’s workforce aware of their role in supporting learning?
  • Is there a workforce member responsible for learning within the museum? If there is not a dedicated staff member, how is learning supported by the museum?
  • Do the learning activities reflect the museum’s purpose and collection?
  • Do these learning activities link back to the focus of the museum and its collections?
  • Are learning opportunities offered appropriate to the size and nature of the collections?
  • How are learning experiences at the museum appropriate for the ranges of users to the museum?
  • Do the learning activities and resources reflective of different learning styles?
  • Does the museum engage and consult with a broad range of people to develop learning opportunities?
  • How are learning opportunities promoted?
  • What information is made available to groups, particularly of children and vulnerable adults, to facilitate their visit?
  • QIS How well does the museum create opportunities for learning through partnerships?