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Ways You Can Help ASTC Members Struck by Natural Disasters

We had no sooner seen the end of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma before Hurricane Maria was upon us, followed by the disastrous earthquake in Mexico. In the ASTC office, we have been trying to keep in touch with our members who are facing the full effect of nature’s forces.

But the lightning-quick wonder of modern communications can disappear for days when all the underlying infrastructure gets wiped out or overloaded. In some areas, such as Puerto Rico, communications are still difficult. As we receive information, our aim has been to bring you up to date about your colleagues.

Our latest information comes from Tasha Endara of Centro Criollo Ciencias y Tecnología del Caribe (C3TEC) in Caguas, Puerto Rico, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) outside San Juan. They are trying to reopen their theater—but have no electricity.

“The Hurricane Maria was very terrible for us. We lost the crystal panels, a lot of acoustical tile, and carpets. Now we work very hard to clean and set up the facilities. We need an electrical generator to open the theater, is the only structure in use, but we don’t have an electrical system.”

We are seeking additional information, but if you would like to help C3TEC with their need for a generator, please contact me.

You may like to follow the model of Dean Briere and the Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York. The will raise funds on International Science Center and Science Museum Day (ISCSMD) November 10 for C3TEC and other science centers hit by natural disasters. They came up with the idea of reserving some of the visitor income from that day to financially assist our colleagues. He writes:

“The Sciencenter’s vision is a world in which every young person is empowered to use science in shaping a better future. We are part of a global community of science museums that help make that vision possible, and we feel compelled to come to the aid of our colleagues in the field who have been affected by the recent disasters. Our Board supports this, and we hope our initiative will spark similar efforts from other museums around the globe.”

Several ASTC members have asked how they can help, and we are exploring if we can establish a pairing program, so that museums and science centers can be in touch with one another directly, providing specialist services as needed. Each interested institution can register their interest in offering support and describe how/what kind of support they best feel they can offer by emailing me.

For example, museums that incur artifact damage might benefit from partnerships with museums that have registry or conservation expertise. Sarah George, executive director of the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City, suggested her team could provide conservation expertise. Replacing exhibit elements that are damaged or lost is another possible way your institution could help. Expertise in building financial recovery plans could also be useful. We will endeavor to let ASTC members recovering from disasters know what is available and aim to put the organizations in touch.

Perhaps your staff might like to create an event to support another museum and their staff. Of course, contributions to the disaster funds of the Red Cross will also bring relief; here’s an article recommended by an ASTC member in Mexico.

Finally, there are a simple way anyone can help right away, one that can make a big difference. Angeline Howell, CEO at Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, says:

“I wanted to reach out as we have acknowledged that we could use some assistance here in St. Pete. Our main fundraiser of the year is coming up on October 14th. This fundraiser does support our operating dollars each year. We have been reaching out to businesses around town for auction items and unfortunately since they have been recouping from the hurricane, they are unable to donate to our auction. I wasn’t sure if ASTC could ask some other museums if they would be willing to send some items/auction baskets that we could use in our silent auction? This year is our 30 years, and we are celebrating with a large formal birthday party with a playful kid twist! Any help and support is appreciated!”

I do hope you will be able to send a gift to Angeline, and I look forward to hearing if you can help your fellow members with services and support. Please let me know!

Image: (U.S.) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration