MOA attendance growth leads NC museums

Nancy Mueller.jpg



By Nancy Bailey Muller
Museum of the Albemarle.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

We are excited! Museum of the Albemarle had the highest percentage increase in visitation from FY2016-17 to FY2017-18 of any other state operated museum or historic site in North Carolina. This year 79,889 people experienced Museum of the Albemarle, compared to 62,243 last year.

The 28 percent increase didn’t just happen. Years of collaboration and partnerships with the counties of northeastern North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, United States Coast Guard, Elizabeth City State University, College of the Albemarle and many individual patrons and friends have turned the museum into a must- see destination.

Some may ask, why do people go to museums, and especially our museum. Museums have been around for many years and were repositories of artifacts. This museum began the same way. Artifacts alone, rarely cause excitement and curiosity. Just as the accepted standard of interpretation began to develop, the Museum of the Albemarle hired Susan Stitt as its first executive director. She, with many volunteers, created stories and used the artifacts as devices for storytelling.

Interpretation of artifacts and their use in cultures has always been a mainstay at this museum. But yes, some believe it is very old school. During the temporary exhibit of The Nags Head Portrait, also known as Theodosia Burr, the forward-thinking staff suggested the use of a newer practice that museums are successfully using in the digital age.

Immersion was digitally created for viewers of the Theodosia portrait. The museum provides the artifact, but the viewers can enhance it with their imagination. Hold your smart phone in front of the portrait and an application provides scenes that are like a wormhole to historic possibilities.

Many viewers came to experience a new way of interpretation. This brings fun and inspiration for the next generation of historians and lifetime learners. The museum doesn’t have plans to change its way of portraying artifacts, but it is one of the first in our state to incorporate new best practices to engage those who may think there is nothing new for them in a museum.

Guests are still surprised that such a great resource for our area is open to the public and free to visit. The Friends of the Museum and staff make a strong commitment to be inclusive of all community members and visitors.

The 50th anniversary was celebrated last year as an invitation for everyone to visit. Some of the events at the museum are fund raising events. Even though the building and staff are paid for by the state, the educational programs, exhibits and outreach would not exist with out local patronage.

Not only collection, preservation and interpretation, but programming and research are part of our objective. During the 50th year, a research symposium invited original work on Women of the Underground Railroad.

The multi-use building which houses Museum of the Albemarle was created by Design Architect Centerbrook and built by Hayes, Seay, Mattern and Matter for welcoming guests. The open lobby, portico and passageways are inviting. Weddings, meetings, and homecomings are a few of the occasions for which space may be rented.

We hope the community and friends will help us keep our visitation up this year to be another record breaker. Thank you for your support!

Nancy Bailey Muller is the secretary of Friends of the Museum of the Albemarle.