The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History recently named Orlando Carvalho, former executive vice president of aeronautics at Lockheed Martin Corporation, its new interim president.
Carvalho is an independent director for the Mercury Systems Inc board of directors and has previously served on the advisory board for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. His wife, Anne Carvalho, serves on Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s board.
Carvalho was confident that the nonprofit could get back to operating in the black, he said on Monday. The museum has been struggling financially at least a decade, long before the pandemic forced it and many similar institutions to temporarily close and scale back their programming.
Publicly available tax documents show that, with one exception, the museum operated at an annual net loss ranging between $1.3 million and $4.7 million from 2011-19. The museum reported a net income of $1.3 million during the fiscal year 2018.
“If we do this right, and I believe we will … if we do this right, we’ll see more visitors, we’ll see more people that want to be a member of the museum, and that interest alone can offer additional revenue that could help the museum operate at a surplus or operate in the black,” Carvalho said. “Getting the Omni reopened is a very important step in the process.”
Parents and young children often give positive feedback about their experiences at the museum when surveyed, but that enthusiasm drops off for middle grade and older students who felt that the space was geared toward little kids.
“Given that feedback and working with the staff here, we’ve really put some new energy around how to look at setting up some new exhibits, increasing the number of exhibits that we have on the floor of the museum and then making the museum a museum that appeals to a wide audience,” he said.
Carvalho has enjoyed working with the museum staff, but is uncertain about coming out of retirement to take on the leadership position permanently, he said.
Board members are in the process of identifying an executive search firm to conduct a national search, though they’re not ruling out local candidates.
The museum has about 40 full-time employees, but Carvalho estimates that it needs closer to 50 – a number that would still be smaller than their pre-pandemic staffing levels.
Kippen de Alba Chu, who was hired as the museum’s chief of staff in 2019, had been serving as interim since previous president Van Romans retired in April 2021 after more than 15 years at the helm of the museum. De Alba Chu no longer works at the museum and declined to comment.
The Fort Worth Museum of Science was initially called the Fort Worth’s Children’s Museum when it opened in 1945. The name was changed to its current iteration in the late 1960s as a way to draw in guests of all ages. The museum outgrew the two rooms it occupied in De Zavala Elementary School and moved into the R.E. Harding House before landing in the Cultural District in 1954. Construction on its current building was completed in 2009.
Editor’s note: Marianne Auld is the chair of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History board and also serves on the board of the Fort Worth Report. This post was updated on April 20 to clarify the museum’s previous locations.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.