By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Interim director working on new museum features

But the museum’s interim director, Ann Witsil, isn’t fazed. She sees a positive present and a brighter future for the museum. In fact, she is busy unveiling new programs and planning more.

Witsil owns and operates Catalyst Strategies of Portland, which bills itself as a “strategic planning facilitation firm.” She has worked previously as an executive for Nike and U.S. Bancorp.

Witsil has been hired to run the museum while the board seeks a permanent replacement for longtime director Larry Wood.

Despite the financial travails of the foundation that owns many of the museum’s assets, things are going well, she said, with a record number of visitors during the last year. And she said its docents are “extraordinary ... the envy of other museums.”

Last summer, Evergreen Vintage Aircraft, also acting to satisfy creditors, sold the aviation exhibit hall and theater building to a sympathetic buyer who has leased it to the museum for a 20-year initial term. EVA also sold 26 of the museum’s exhibits, but a donor put up money that allowed the museum to purchase 17 of them, assuring their continued display.

Evergreen Vintage Aircraft remains locked in a court battle with another creditor, World Fuel Inc.

In late September, the judge in the case threatened to dismiss it, based on reports the dispute had been settled out of court. But at an Oct. 29 status hearing, he ordered EVA to create and file a liquidation plan and disclosure statement by Nov. 13. Otherwise, he warned, he would set the case for trial the week of Thanksgiving.

The space exhibit hall and water park are currently scheduled for a sheriff’s sale on the courthouse steps Nov. 30. However, Witsil expressed doubt that any such sale would take place.

She said the museum has several interested investors.

Citing the Evergreen Vintage Aircraft settlement as a prototype, she said, “I think we’re hopeful that the foundation works out a similar deal. ... We hope there will be an investor who understands the appeal and importance of these buildings to the community.”

Witsil said the museum does have a plan in the event that hope is dashed. In the meantime, she said, it is busy working on new features, including a simlab for recreating flight experiences, a lab where the public can view and possibly even participate in plane restoration efforts, and a lecture series.

“There is a lot of pent-up creative energy being released,” she said.

Witsil said the museum is also considering opening its wine bar to one or more local wineries for use as a tasting room.

“It’s an exciting time for the museum,” she said. “We are creating the foundation for new growth.”

Witsil said the community has a role in helping the museum determine the vision for its future. For example, the museum is planning to hold a “community gala” at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7 — something it hopes will become its primary annual fundraiser.

The event will include silent and oral auctions, a hall of honor award ceremony, formal title transfer of its star exhibit, the giant wooden airplane known as the Spruce Goose, and dancing under the wings of the massive plane. Additional information may be obtained at