June 23, 2015
State official to visit Graveyard Museum,
discuss bond proposal to finally finish it
BY IRENE NOLAN
Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz will
host a discussion of Gov. Pat McCrory's new "Connect NC" bond
proposal on Thursday, June 25, at 11 a.m. at the Graveyard of the
Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village.
The governor's $2.85 billion bond proposal, which must be approved by
both the General Assembly in this session and voters in November,
includes $3.5 million to fabricate and install the permanent exhibits
in the museum, which has been in the planning stages longer than the
Bonner Bridge replacement.
The permanent exhibits are all that remains to be done to complete the
museum, which showcases the maritime history, culture, and
heritage of the Outer Banks through the stories of the many ships that
have wrecked on the dangerous offshore shoals known to all as the
Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Effort to establish a shipwreck museum on the island began in the 1980s as the dream of a small group of Hatteras villagers.
In 1973, the wreck of the famous Civil War ironclad, the USS Monitor,
which sunk in a storm on New Year's Eve 1862, was discovered southeast
of Cape Hatteras. And by the 1980s, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration was asking for proposals for housing the
Hatteras village did not win the competition for the Monitor artifacts,
but the dream of a museum was pursued by a private, non-profit group of
volunteers who were determined to honor the maritime history of the
The group partnered with NOAA and the National Park Service. In
1995, the board hired Joseph Schwarzer as the museum's executive
director to help get them get the museum established. The shell
of the current museum was completed in 2000 through community
fundraising, grants, and funds from NOAA and Dare County.
In 2003, the museum, though not yet completed, was opened to the public
so locals and visitors could see many of the artifacts that were being
accumulated, many of them through donations from island families.
In 2005, the historic 6,000-pound bronze and crystal Fresnel lens from
the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was reconstructed in the lobby of the
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and is on display there, on its
pedestal. The exhibit hall was completed in 2006.
In 2007, the board of the non-profit founding group voted to accept an
offer for the museum to become part of the state's maritime museum
system. At the same time, Schwarzer became executive director of North
Carolina's three maritime museums.
Since it was opened, the museum has grown in prestige and visitation even though it is still not completed.
The most recent biennial report on the museum, Schwarzer said, showed
visitation at more than 174,000 in the two-year period. With outreach
programs, the museum has reached more than 195,000 people, and more
than 9 million visited the website.
Since the museum is not completed, no entrance fee is charged, but visitors are encouraged to make donations.
Still remaining is the task of designing, fabricating, and installing
the permanent exhibits for the 1,600-foot lobby and the 5,500-foot
galleries. Schwarzer said in the interview this spring that the final
design for the permanent exhibits should be completed by the end of the
year. At that time, he pegged the cost of fabricating and
installing them at about $3 million but said he was not sure how the
funding would be secured.
Connect NC is Gov. McCrory's $2.85 billion bond proposal for strategic
investments in the state's transportation and other public
infrastructure "that aims to cultivate a stronger economy, increased
jobs and improve North Carolina's quality of life."
The proposed bonds will benefit projects from the mountains to the
Piedmont to the coast with investments in 64 counties across the state.
Projects include investments in both small rural areas and large urban
cities. Strategic investments have been selected considering agency
priority, the size of the project, and location.
"Currently, interest rates are historically low," says Kluttz, "so
timing is good for this targeted, long-term investment in our state's
future. I am thrilled that the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum will be
able to enhance the visitor's experience by telling the full story of
this unique and fascinating area, and to positively impact the
economies of the local communities."
According to a news release on Connect NC, no tax increases will be
necessary to finance the bonds "because North Carolina's economy is
strong and growing and, because the budget has been managed well, the
state has ample credit capacity to borrow and repay the bonds with no
tax increase. "
Also according to the news release, "North Carolina is growing faster
than average and has surpassed Michigan to become the ninth most
populous state - attractive to both retirees and new professionals
alike. This growth impacts our state's aging infrastructure."
Connect NC proposes two bonds of roughly $1.4 billion each that will
support investment in transportation and other public infrastructure
projects in education, public health, parks, and ports, as well as for
projects that support operations for the military.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on Connect NC, go to http://www.connect.nc.gov/.
You can find out more about the museum at its website, http://www.ncmaritimemuseums.com/graveyard-of-the-atlantic.html.