Circuit Riders

Conducted as a “mini” collections needs assessment program for small museums, libraries, and archives, Circuit Riders will discuss various areas of stewardship with you, help identify your specific collections issues, suggest and prioritize basic steps to improve care of your collections, review your existing documents and forms, provide you with templates and suggest site-specific resources.

How the Circuit Rider Program Benefits Your Institution

The Circuit Rider program is tailored to meet the needs of individual sites and offers an opportunity for site staff and board members to meet personally with the Circuit Riders in an informal, supportive and consultative setting. These mini needs assessments are intended to help identify your specific collections issues and set priorities for improving collections care at your institution that staff and board can practicably accomplish in the next one to two years.

Circuit Riders helps small collecting institutions develop preliminary strategies for improving collections care by identifying and prioritizing actions you can practicably take to implement improvements. The program will also help provide templates and identify resources you can use to draft basic collections policies, forms, and procedures for adoption and implementation.

The Circuit Rider program addresses many of the same stewardship areas as the American Association for State and Local History’s StEPs program and is based on the American Association of Museum’s Collections Stewardship Assessment Program (CSMAP) and Heritage Preservation’s Conservation Assessment Program (CAP); consequently, participating in Circuit Riders can help prepare you to pursue the StEPS program or determine your readiness for a more comprehensive CSMAP or CAP.

What to Expect

No preparation is needed. You need only plan for staff who work with collections to meet with the VAM assessment team for a half-day site visit. The visit will include tours of your exhibits and collections storage areas, discussion about your specific collections issues and suggestions to help you address them. Following the visit, the Circuit Rider team will prepare a short report that addresses collections needs, accompanied by recommendations of low-cost steps to help you improve collections care and management over the next 1-2 years, and a list of specific resources to help you accomplish them.

Six-month and one-year follow-ups from VAM will encourage accomplishments by your institution and offer some additional external accountability without any undue pressure.

New to the Program

A new element of the Circuit Riders program is the addition of on-the-spot environmental measurements. The team will be equipped with monitoring equipment to use during the site visits which will provide staff or volunteers with some immediate information about their collections environment.

Also, VAM’s new Environmental Monitoring Kit Rental Program will soon be available to offer small museums opportunities for more extended monitoring at their own institutions. Site rental kits will include user-friendly equipment with step-by-step instructions for use plus a supplemental Manual. Contact VAM for rental information.

Qualifications and How to Apply

Applications will be reviewed by VAM’s Technical Assistance Committee, which includes collections management experts from across the Commonwealth. The program is competitive. Private institutions and for-profit venues are not eligible.


  • Site is a collecting institution (museums, libraries, archives)
  • Site is open to the public (not a private collection)
  • Site has an educational component
  • Institution is not a for-profit
  • Application received by the deadline for the quarter for which the institution is applying
  • Institution is not in the process (approved or scheduled) of having another type of collections needs assessment (MAP or CAMP)
Email, Fax or Mail completed applications to:

Christina E. Newton, Assistant Director
Virginia Association of Museums
3126 West Cary Street, #447
Richmond, VA 23221
Fax: 804-358-3174