Baylor University has recruited a top leader of the San Antonio children’s museum to serve as the newest director of the Mayborn Museum.
Charles Walter, who has nearly 30 years of museum management experience, will begin his duties Aug. 3.
He will take over the reins from Ellie Caston, who is stepping down after 13 years as the Mayborn’s director but who will continue teaching in the university’s museum studies department.
“I really just appreciate the wholeness of the Mayborn Museum,” Walter said. “It’s a natural history museum, it’s a children’s museum, it’s a historic complex, and all of that is within the setting of Baylor University, where young people are coming to transform their lives. . . . The idea that here’s this amazing museum in an amazing university, it just drew me to it.”
Walter began his post as chief operating officer of The DoSeum — San Antonio’s Museum for Kids in December, guiding the new $47 million facility to its grand opening just three weeks ago.
Much of The DoSeum’s exhibit space is dedicated to activities promoting interest in science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — studies.
But Walter thought the Mayborn, which specializes in natural sciences and cultural history in addition to its Discovery Center children’s museum, was an ideal match for his interests and museum experience. The move to Waco also puts him closer to his two grandchildren in Weatherford.
“It’s one of those moves that I just think was meant to be,” Walter said. “It’s professionally an outstanding opportunity, and No. 2, it really does some wonderful things for me family-wise, as well. When (my wife and I) looked at it, it was something we couldn’t turn down.”
Walter began his museum career at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in 1986, eventually becoming its executive vice president for programs.
During his tenure, he led efforts to secure a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop “CSI: The Experience,” a forensic science exhibit created in partnership with CBS, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and Rice University’s Center for Technology and Learning, according to a Baylor press release.
Walter in 2011 began a three-year stint as executive director of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science before leaving for his short term in San Antonio.
Tiffany Hogue, chair of the 11-person search committee for the position, said Walter’s strong reputation among Texas museum circles made him a prime candidate for guiding the Mayborn’s future direction and programming.
Walter was one of three finalists brought in for on-campus interviews.
Hogue said while Baylor expects the Mayborn’s cultural history and natural science spaces to continue primarily focusing on Central Texas, Walter will be given freedom to determine how best to boost the facility’s impact and draw new visitors.
“The museum has been open for more than a decade now, and we’re really pleased with all that they’ve accomplished, but we know that the museum is maturing now, and we’re looking to Charlie to help cast the next strategic vision for where the museum is heading — who they want to impact and how they want to continue to grow and flourish,” said Hogue, chief of staff to Ed Trevathan, Baylor’s executive vice president and provost.
Walter said he expects to spend his first months gathering feedback from Mayborn staff, Baylor leaders and visitors in order to plot out a direction and new methods of highlighting and enhancing the museum’s holdings.
“Every museum is different and every community is different,” Walter said. “My first job will be to talk to a lot of people, to listen a lot, to learn what people hold special about the Mayborn, and my job will be to amplify that specialness.”