You May Also LikeQ+A: Gina Winstead Succeeding together Diversity in nature
Justin and Amber McCann
What they supports:
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Why it matters:
“The Carnegie Museums were one of the reasons that we came to Pittsburgh. It was part of the broader Pittsburgh ecosystem.” – Justin McCann
The first full day that Justin and Amber McCann spent together in Pittsburgh, they decided to take their three children on a long walk.
It was a frigid Pittsburgh Saturday in late January 2013, with the temperatures dipping into the 20s. Amber and the kids arrived from Maryland the night before and the boxes in their Squirrel Hill rental house were still unpacked. But settling into their new home would have to wait. They wanted to explore their new city.
And so, in a light snow, Justin, Amber, and their three elementary-school-aged children left on foot for a half-hour journey to visit Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
“I think the kids found it a little magical,” recalls Justin, a software engineer at Microsoft. “Where we were in Maryland, you had to drive to get anywhere. We walked past Carnegie Mellon and saw the Cathedral of Learning as we were walking down. It was great.”
From their first glimpse of “Dippy” to getting lost among the prehistoric fossils and dioramas inside, that day would establish a relationship with the Carnegie Museums that has evolved and deepened over the past decade. The museums became places to spend a few vacant hours on the weekend and where they would take out-of-town visitors.
As the kids got older, their interests changed. Their oldest became more interested in the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, so much so that on some visits they barely ventured beyond it. And though their broadening interests would take them to the other Carnegie Museums over the years, that first experience of the Museum of Natural History established it as a favorite place.
Then, during COVID lockdowns, the museums’ online offerings became a refuge, a crack of light in the darkness. Unable to visit in person, Justin discovered the virtual sessions with researchers broadcasting from their homes. Amber enjoyed lectures and online events as well, but also engaged with the museums on social media. That is where she discovered mollusk expert Tim Pearce, whose snail jokes on TikTok have made him an unlikely celebrity and helped the museum collect around 400,000 followers on the platform.
“TikTok was definitely something that came into my life during the pandemic, and he was on there early,” says Amber, who is an independent lactation and communications consultant. “I enjoyed other researchers on TikTok identifying plants and animals—but, yes, I do still enjoy my snail jokes.”
It was during lockdown when the McCanns decided it was time to give back. On hikes with museum advisory board member Dan Nydick, Justin discussed with Nydick all the programming at Carnegie Museum of Natural History and how the museum was adjusting to the pandemic. Nydick floated the idea of Justin becoming a member of the museum’s advisory board. The McCanns were more settled in their new home and in a position to step up their support to the institutions that mattered to them. They agreed that the Museum of Natural History was one place to give their time and money.
“I think natural history is where our family has spent the most time, has had the most personal interest in, and is a place that we continue to go back to, even as the kids have gotten older,” Amber says.
“The Carnegie Museums were one of the reasons that we came to Pittsburgh,” Justin adds. “It was part of the broader Pittsburgh ecosystem.”
To learn more about giving opportunities at Carnegie Museums, contact Beth Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.622.8859.
Receive more stories in your emailSign up