Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center is among 10 museums selected to participate in the American Alliance of Museums’ new accreditation academy for small institutions.

An initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Small Museums Accreditation Academy is a yearlong readiness program to make the accreditation process more accessible to smaller museums. It is designed for institutions with five or fewer staff members that are striving to meet best practices and achieve accreditation.

Participating museums will emerge with a stronger culture of excellence and be poised to apply for accreditation, said Laura L. Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums. “The limited staff and resources of small museums do not preclude them from being operationally excellent and having tremendous impact on their communities,” she said. “I’m excited to welcome these 10 museums to our new program as they take a major step toward being recognized by the field for that excellence.”

WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center is an award-winning museum of southern Appalachian culture and history, and a regional resource for education and research. Opened in 1979, the center collects artifacts, creates and hosts exhibits, and showcases traditional skills, crafts and music. It develops content for WCU’s annual Mountain Heritage Day festival on the last Saturday of September, presenting traditional culture, music and crafts to thousands of visitors.

“We are thrilled that the Mountain Heritage Center will be included in the first class of this national program,” said Pamela Meister, curator and center interim director. “The Mountain Heritage Center has a 40-year record of distinguished service as a cultural and educational resource for WCU and the wider community, and the Small Museums Accreditation Academy is a great opportunity to ensure that we meet best practices and ultimately achieve accreditation, the museum field’s mark of distinction since 1971.”

The Mountain Heritage Center’s exhibit gallery is located on the ground floor of WCU’s Hunter Library. Visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Thursdays. For more information, call 828-227-7129 or go to mhc.wcu.edu.