While you may have never visited Southport, NC, you have certainly seen the town on television shows and in movies. This sleepy seaside town has been the backdrop to so many famous flicks, and driving into the town is like stepping back in time! All the way down Howe Street there is cute shop after cute shop selling everything from beachy décor to bespoke gifts and a Christmas store. The food is even more incredible! Some of the best seafood around comes right out of these waters. Southport sits in a unique place, at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal waterway and the Cape Fear River. The museum is one block away from Howe Street. Whether driving in or coming by ferry, the view is breathtaking.
The museum originated in the minds of two residents back in the 1980s. Mary and Wayne Strickland were scuba divers who often dove to shipwrecks of the Lower Cape Fear. After a few years on their own, the state of North Carolina absorbed them and created the NC Maritime Museum at Southport. Originally housed in a small store front on Howe Street, this new state agency saw a need for a bigger space. In 2011, the museum relocated to the old officer’s quarters turned apartments on the grounds of Fort Johnston. Since the move, the museum has taken off!
When visitors first walk in, they are greeted by our Visitor and Volunteer Services Coordinator, or one of the wonderful volunteers. Invited to watch a short six-minute video in the museum library, guests are given an overview of what the museum covers. The museum is entirely self-guided, and the video does a tremendous job of preparing the visitor for what they are about to see. The exhibit hall starts with the first mariners, the Native Americans, and runs through to World War II. While it is not completely in chronological order, the staff is working diligently to institute that. The hall has tall vaulted ceilings with exposed beams to mimic the ribs of a vessel. Each exhibit has been thoughtfully planned to include tactile elements and inclusion of the littlest learners. Multiple exhibits include audio clips and video segments to fully immerse the patron in the subject matter. One of the exhibits is the very shipwreck that birthed the museum!
Not only is this museum stocked full of maritime history and culture, it offers some amazing programs for ages 4 to adult. Many of their programs are free or at very low cost. One of the most popular is a strictly 21 and older class, called Salty Dogs. These monthly cooking classes teach participants to cook locally caught seafood as well as a little about the history of fish found in this area of the Lower Cape Fear.
While the NC Maritime Museum at Southport is a state museum, 90% of their funding is through their Friends organization. Exhibits, programs and maintenance of the building all are funded through donations from the membership.
To learn more about the museum, see upcoming programs or sign up as our friend please visit our website at www.ncmaritimemuseumsouthport.com
Katy Menne’s Bio:
Growing up in a military family, Katy has had the opportunity to travel all over the world, however, she calls California home. She earned her BA in History and Masters in Teaching Secondary Social Studies at the University of South Carolina. Katy has been teaching in formal and informal settings since 2011. She joined the museum in 2018 as the Curator of Education.
Her research interests include… World War II: German tactics, Russian involvement, Pacific theater; 1960s: Music and media influence, Cuban Missile Crisis, Presidency and family dynamics of the Kennedy’s; US Life-Saving Service; Lighthouses; Military History.