The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, formerly the Fort Worth Children's Museum, began with the ideas and work of the Council of Administrative Women in Education in 1939. The museum, chartered in 1941, was originally housed in a classroom of De Zavala Elementary School. In 1947 growth required a move to the old Harding home on Summit Avenue. In 1953 a new building was constructed through public funding, and the museum was moved to its present location in Amon Carter Square. The Amon G. Carter Foundation provided donations for two major wings added in 1961 and 1964. Changing programs and exhibits came to appeal to all ages, and it became apparent that the museum was no longer exclusively for children; in 1968 its name was changed. In 1983, 30,000 additional feet was added for the Omni Theater, bringing the size of the museum to 118,000 square feet. The museum was one of the first to achieve accreditation from the American Association of Museums.
A twenty-six-member board of trustees governs the museum, which has an executive director. William G. Hassler was director from 1953 to 1962, followed by Helmuth J. Naumer, who held the position until 1976, when Donald R. Otto took over. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is funded by income from the museum school, gift shop, Noble Planetarium, and Omni Theater, and by the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.
From its inception, the museum was devoted to implementing programs that would foster a better understanding and appreciation of history, science, and culture. There are five permanent exhibits in the museum. Medicine and Man is divided into two sections, the Hall of Medical Science and the Hall of Physiology. The Hall of Texas History includes dioramas and six period rooms: a general store, blacksmith shop, Victorian parlor, school room, log cabin, and barbershop. Man and His Possessions presents world cultures through such artifacts as clothing, tools, pottery, baskets, and masks. Rocks and Fossils includes the basics of geological formation and prehistoric life. Technological exhibits have included one on lasers and a semipermanent IBM exhibit named Antique Calculators and Computer Technology. Other exhibits represent a variety of subjects such as world dolls and live Texas animals. The museum also acquires temporary exhibits from around the world.
A collection of over 100,000 artifacts and specimens in both the science and history departments is used for research, exhibition, and teaching. The disciplines represented in the collections include archeology, ethnology, malacology, Texas and American history, entomology, mineralogy, herpetology, mammalogy, meteoritics, and paleontology.
The museum has a preschool for children three to five and general classes and workshops for all ages. The Noble Planetarium in the museum was named for Charlie Mary Noble, who taught the museum's astronomy classes for many years. The planetarium provides many different multimedia programs on history, geology, and meteorites, as well as on astronomy; it also presents laser-light shows. The museum houses its own curatorial library. In 1983 the museum opened the Omni Theater, which seats 356 people and features an eighty-foot tilted dome. The Omnimax film projector produces 180-degree images that surround the audience.