The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum was the topic of the April 3 edition of the Radio Hatteras interview show, “To the Point.”
The guests were Joseph Schwarzer, executive director of the North Carolina Maritime Museums, and Mary Ellen Riddle, education curator at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village.
They talked about the museum in Hatteras village, 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.
Establishing 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 ship’s artifacts.
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 island.
The group partnered with NOAA and the National Park Service. In 1995, the board hired Schwarzer 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. Since then, the museum has grown in prestige and visitation even though it is still not completed.
Still remaining is the task of designing, fabricating, and installing the permanent exhibits. Schwarzer said in the interview that the final design for the permanent exhibits should be completed by the end of the year.
He said the fabrication and installation of the exhibits will cost about $3 million and is not yet funded, though he assumes it will be a combination of state and federal funding.
Schwarzer says he is hopeful. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, he said, is “very well regarded” in the state Department of Cultural Resources and completing it is “very high up on their timeline.”
The most recent biennial report on the museum, he 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.
In the interview, Schwarzer and Riddle discuss many of the museum’s ongoing programs and events, its temporary exhibits, and some special artifacts.
You can find out more about the museum at its website, http://www.ncmaritimemuseums.com/graveyard-of-the-atlantic.html.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
“To the Point,” which is hosted by Island Free Press editor Irene Nolan, airs on the island’s community radio station, FM 101.5 and FM 99.9, at 5 p.m. on the first and third Sunday of each month. It is repeated on the second and fourth Sunday. Those who don’t live on Hatteras can listen to the show on Sundays through live streaming at www.radiohatteras.org.
Scroll down and click on the “To the Point” logo to listen to the audio of the interview.
MORE ABOUT RADIO HATTERAS
Radio Hatteras is our community, non-profit radio station and depends on grants, memberships, and underwriting.
It broadcasts around the clock with news — including such things as surfing and fishing reports — community announcements, music, and special programs. The station is also now streamed live. To listen, go to www.radiohatteras.org.
Our community radio station also needs your support, and you can give that by purchasing a membership or by underwriting the station if you are a business or another community non-profit.
Radio Hatteras memberships are $50 for a family, $25 for an individual and $10 for a student. Mail memberships and other contributions to Radio Hatteras, P.O. Box 339, Frisco, NC 27936.
E-mail [email protected] or call (252) 995-6000 for information about underwriting opportunities.