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What he supports:
Sensory Friendly Hours at Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Why it matters:
“They make the museum a fun and accessible place for even more families.”
It’s early on a Saturday morning and Stan and Patti Hasselbusch are wandering the halls of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. It’s intentionally a quieter and less crowded experience. For 90 minutes before the museum opens to the public, families with members on the autism spectrum or who otherwise easily experience sensory overload are soaking in their favorite exhibits in a controlled environment, including designated quiet zones. Museum experts are on hand to give tours and answer questions.
“Light, noise, crowds, they’re all controlled to make it a more enjoyable and interactive experience,” says Stan, a longtime museum advisory board member. Three years ago, Stan had initial discussions with Sloan MacRae, now the museum’s director of marketing, and former museum director Eric Dorfman about starting sensory friendly hours. They now take place four or five times a year, including for two of the museum’s most popular holiday draws: its annual egg hunt and “booseum” trick-or-treating. In 2019, before the disruptions of the pandemic, some 660 people had visited during Sensory Friendly Hours, a number that Stan is confident will continue to grow.
“Sensory Friendly Hours are staffed well, and they make the museum a fun and accessible place for even more families,” says Stan, who, with his wife Patti, supports the program financially, along with sponsors the Jack Buncher Foundation, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, and TribLIVE. “There’s room for growth. The need is out there.”
Firsthand knowledge of that need comes from personal experience, including Stan’s longtime volunteer service on the boards of the Autism Connection of Pennsylvania, an advocacy organization founded and staffed by parents, and the Autism Housing Development Corporation of Pittsburgh, which in 2016 opened one of the first apartment buildings in the country to offer affordable housing for adults on the autism spectrum.
Making the Museum of Natural History a place for everyone is also part of Stan’s role as a museum advisory board member and, from 2017 through 2021, chair of its nominating and governance committee. Part of the committee’s charge is to expand and diversify who comprises the board, considering gender, age, and race as well as professional and lived experience.
“The nominating and governance committee feels it is our responsibility and privilege to seek new members, which would result in the advisory board becoming a direct reflection of the attendees of the museum and the community it serves,” Stan says. “The personal experiences, passions, and knowledge of a diverse group of people help us adapt to the changing nature of museums and help determine how relevant we are to our community.
“In the last few years, we’ve added about 15 people with this focus. Ultimately, when we look for people, we want to know if they have a passion for the museum; if they can give of their energy, time, and finances and are willing to be an active participant, because that’s what the museum and community need.”
As a child growing up in a rural community in the Midwest without a cultural scene, Stan would visit relatives who lived in Chicago every summer. In addition to going to Wrigley Field, amusement parks, and the beach, they would make day trips to the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Field Museum, where he still remembers as an 8-year-old seeing dinosaurs for the first time. The sense of discovery and awe stuck with him, and later as a young businessman in Chicago he continued to spend time at these same cultural attractions. “I was lucky to catch the museum bug early,” Stan says.
He became involved with Carnegie Museums in 2008 as president and CEO of L.B. Foster Company, at the invitation of his former boss Lee Foster, a longtime chair of the Carnegie Museums board of trustees. Stan served on the advisory board of Carnegie Science Center until 2012, the year he retired after a 40-year career with L.B. Foster. Just two years later, former Carnegie Museums President David Hillenbrand tapped Stan to provide volunteer leadership at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and he’s never looked back.
“As a volunteer and as a donor, what keeps me involved is the people,” he says. “Carnegie Museum of Natural History is truly a gem in this city of ours. When I go in for meetings, many times I will just wander the museum, and I always find new things to discover. They do a wonderful job of keeping it fresh. I love it. And I want to help others love it.”
To learn more about giving opportunities at Carnegie Museums, contact Beth Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.622.8859.
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