What “Sustains” Us

Science centers and museums the world over are successful through the combined efforts of capable staff, dedicated board members, committed volunteers, supportive community leaders, and a widely diverse collection of suppliers whose products and services help us bring exciting and educational programming to our visitors. ASTC refers to these suppliers—including individuals, corporations, and public agencies—as our “sustaining members.” Together, they support nearly every aspect of our operations, and they are often the source of the most innovative and forward-thinking concepts employed within our institutions.

At a recent professional conference, I met several of our current ASTC sustaining members (and a few potential members). I took some time to discuss not just their products and services, but also their interests and motivations for investing their creative energies in the museum field. This community comprises individuals with the same diverse experiences and expertise typical of the staff of our member institutions. They are artists, engineers, educators, scientists, business people, marketing professionals, and community experts. Many began their careers in our museums; others are on a path to future positions among us. Most importantly, they are collectively a community of “thinkers and doers,” dedicated to helping us to become more creative and efficient.

I believe that ASTC needs to explore more deeply how to strengthen the role of our sustaining members in our association’s work. We should bring our sustaining members into the dialogue on future trends, challenges, and creative directions for our field. Their perspectives will be extremely valuable to ASTC’s Communities of Practice, conference sessions, and other projects. I welcome the views of others on this topic, and I look forward to connecting with our sustaining member colleagues again at future opportunities.

In this spirit, I recommend that participants at the 2013 ASTC Annual Conference in Albuquerque (October 19–22) take just a few extra minutes to learn about our exhibitors’ perspectives on the future of our field. I know that our sustaining members seek, first and foremost, to form partnerships with science centers and museums that achieve their respective programming and business objectives. ASTC wants to help facilitate these business opportunities wherever possible. Still, I hope that we will also acknowledge and explore our shared commitments and contributions to the field for the benefit of all those we serve.