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Born of Place: The Key to Institutional Sustainability

What does it take to make a science center sustainable, adopted by its community, and defended by its community? In Born of Place: The Key to Institutional Sustainability, a panel composed of Don Weinreich, partner, Ennead Architects; Sarah George, executive director, Natural History Museum of Utah; and Eric Siegel, director/chief content officer, New York Hall of Science, explored the proposition that a cultural institution’s success depends on its ability to define, understand, and root itself in its community. Museums can be a safe place for dangerous dialogue

George shared perspectives gleaned through the exploration, development, and founding of the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City. She mentioned the importance of developing constituencies by reaching out to schools, the business community, elected officials, donors, and electors. She also discussed the effectiveness of having others in the community speak on your institution’s behalf, particularly business leaders and key officials. Being ready for surprises, listening to those around you, and avoiding overpromising and/or raising expectations unrealistically are also lessons to be learned.

An institution must partner with its constituencies and develop programs and buildings that sustain relevance and grow increasingly vital over time. Siegel also discussed the renovation and reconstruction of the New York Hall of Science’s facility in Queens, New York, as some of the core buildings were built for the 1964 World’s Fair.

Both the Natural History Museum of Utah and the New York Hall of Science partnered with Ennead on their construction needs. Weinreich shared step-by-step explanation and analysis of the processes Ennead followed in the construction of a wholly new museum for NHMU and the reconstruction needs of New York Hall of Science. The insights he provided gave a much clearer picture into the full scope of these processes, from interview and presentation of ideas through to execution.