Just imagine. Two days in a car with the four of us. On February 17th and 18th we set out to visit a number of small, non-profit museums. The goal: look at their current exhibits, and talk to them about how they fund, produce, and publicize their displays.
We started off at the Missiles and More Museum on Topsail Island. Rose Peters was gracious enough to come in for a morning, even though they aren’t open to the public this time of year. She shared a whole bunch of ideas with us and several of the businesses she uses for exhibits are actually in Wilmington. The best ideas: use carpeting to back exhibits, then put Velcro on the back of the graphics and just stick them on. Also useful to us was the idea of using simple hollow core doors to mount exhibits on. We thought that might work well for us since we could fold them back to the wall when we have meetings.
Swansboro was next, for a great (and huge) lunch at Yana’s. A real “hometown” treasure, with decor devoted to Elvis and the 50’s and onion rings to die for.
Our next stop was The History Place, in Morehead City. It’s run by the Carteret County Historical Society and features not only exhibits, but also a large research library. There we talked to Director Steve Anderson who spent a long time talking to us about fundraising, as well as giving us a tour of their new (as in still under construction) exhibit on Pine Knoll Shores.
We then drove up US 17 past New Bern to Plymouth, NC. And where is Plymouth? It’s on the south side of the Chowan River, across the Albemarle Sound from Edenton. It’s actually a very small town, with two small private museums, one on each end of town, about 6 blocks apart. We spent the night in a very nice Holiday Inn Express, though finding dinner was something of an adventure. The only two local restaurants downtown were closed on a Wednesday night in the middle of winter, but we found the police station and asked for a recommendation. A very nice young officer sent us back to the “highway” where we found Mama’s Pizza in the only shopping center with lights on. It turned out to have a nice salad bar and their pizza wasn’t bad either.
The next morning we stopped first at the Port o’ Plymouth Museum. It is mostly devoted to the Civil War and the battles that took place for the domination of this important shipping harbor. David (sorry I’ve forgotten his last name) met us at the door and showed us around. We were particularly interested in a new display he had just put up on World War I. While we were there, an older man, a member of their Board, came through and we talked to him for quite awhile. As it turned out, he knew Leslie Bright from his archaeology days. They do one big fundraiser a year and pretty much exist on the proceeds from that. One neat idea was the “sandbox” outside where kids could “dig for sharks’ teeth.” We had also seen a special corner for kids at Topsail and Rebecca wants to work on making our place more “kid friendly.”
After an hour or so we went down the street to the Roanoke River Maritime Museum, where Brenda Conklin greeted us warmly. It turns out she is the sister of the older man we talked to at the Port-o-Plymouth. They had some great exhibits devoted to boats large and small, as well as a replica of the Roanoke River lighthouse. We even found a canoe on display that Leslie had excavated from Lake Phelps and preserved years ago.
By late morning, we were ready to turn south. After a Wendy’s lunch in Greenville we made it to the Wayne County Historical Society museum in Goldsboro right on time. Chris Lawson welcomed us warmly and talked to us about their displays and programs. One fascinating exhibit is a diorama of the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge, a Civil War battle, waged in 1862 for control of the railroad hub.
Our last stop was Liberty Hall in Kenansville but they were just about to close and we only had time to look at the exhibits in the modern building where tickets are sold. The guided tour of the house and grounds takes as much as 90 minutes, so we hope to go back another day.
A huge thanks to Demetria who did all the driving. We certainly learned a lot. Some things to do, and some very definitely NOT to do. We’re working now on a proposal to take to the Board, for creating some seasonal exhibits and for refurbishing the display cases one at a time.