Exploris making progress, president says

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Exploris has hired a veteran museum development director, eliminated four management jobs and reduced its hours for the fall, moves that its president says should help it raise more private funds and renegotiate its $5 million bank debt.

“I am very optimistic we are going to come to a resolution to allow Exploris to be on sound financial footing and become an even better destination,” says Bonnie Hancock, museum president.

The cuts in positions and hours will pare $300,000 from the annual budget of roughly $4 million for the museum and its IMAX theater, she says.

State lawmakers also approved $100,000 for Exploris, $400,000 less than it had requested.

Hancock has hired Eli Jordfald, vice president of development for the past six years at the Museum of Science and Discovery in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as vice president of development, effective in mid-October.

At the Fort Lauderdale museum, the second-largest in Florida, Jordfald has raised $2 million a year in private dollars, Hancock says.

Initial tasks for Jordfald will be to raise $800,000 combined for two traveling exhibits, mainly from corporate donors.

That includes $150,000 for “What the World Eats,” an exhibit scheduled for next spring of photographs by Peter Menzel, and $650,000 for “The Enemy Within,” an exhibit from the International Spy Museum scheduled for next fall on the history of terror in the U.S.

Progress Energy this summer contributed $25,000 so Exploris could make a deposit to reserve the terrorism exhibit, says Hancock, whose job as president of Progress Fuels was eliminated in March.

To reduce overlapping management, she says, she has eliminated the jobs of vice president of administration and institutional planning, held by Rod Brooks, and vice president of exhibits, held by Linda Dallas.

Hancock says she also eliminated the position of museum store manager and one of two managers of visitor services, bringing the number of remaining management positions to five, and the number of full-time positions to 31.

Those changes, and shorter hours this fall, should boost debt negotiations and help secure the second half of $1 million in spending that the Wake County Board of Commissioners approved for Exploris for the fiscal year that began July 1, Hancock says.

Hired in April as interim director and named president on July 1 with the departure of Anne Bryan, the museum’s founding president, Hancock says the search for a new president has been suspended and she expects to remain as president at least until the end of the year.

She says she is committed to “turning it around” and might stay after the end of the year “if I feel like there’s more I would be able to accomplish for the museum.”

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