Currituck to manage Jarvisburg school site

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Currituck commissioners have informally agreed to have the county Travel and Tourism Office take over management of the former Jarvisburg Colored School Museum in Jarvisburg.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

CURRITUCK — Currituck officials have tentatively agreed to have the county tourism agency take over management of the Historic Jarvisburg Colored School Museum in Lower Currituck.

Commissioners informally agreed last week to a request by the Historic Jarvisburg Colored School Association Board of Directors to have the Currituck Travel and Tourism Office take over operations at the historic structure and museum.

As part of its new role, Currituck Travel and Tourism will also take charge of the artifacts and audio and visual equipment at the site. 

Currituck Tourism and Travel Director Kugler said Jill Landen will assume site management duties at the museum. Landen is currently site manager of Historic Corolla Park and curator at the Whalehead in Historic Corolla.

Kugler told commissioners the HJCSA board asked the county to take over management of the school museum because they were finding it difficult to keep the facility open with just a staff of volunteers. The museum is only open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but the association has struggled to find volunteers.

Kugler told commissioners she estimates taking on responsibility for the museum will cost her department an additional $10,500 a year. She noted the county already owns the former school building and is responsible for maintaining its grounds.

While Kugler doesn't see the need to hire another travel and tourism employee right now, she indicated those needs may change in the future. For the time being, Travel and Tourism will rely on part-time workers who already work for the office to help staff the museum, she said. 

According to the museum's website, the Jarvisburg Colored School was established in 1868 to educate the black children who were attending what was then a segregated school system. Existing records indicate the school opened in Powells Point but was moved to its current site in Jarvisburg in the 1890s.

The Historic Jarvisburg Colored School Association was formed as a nonprofit in 2003 to manage the renovation of the former school, which had been badly deteriorating.

In a 2010 ceremony, the structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places and four years later, the museum was dedicated. Its purpose is to tell the story of the former Jarvisburg Colored School as well as the stories of African Americans who were educated in Currituck’s various communities prior to integration in the 1960s.

Kugler called the former school building a cultural treasure.

"Its fabric in the culture of Currituck is very, very important. And I would hate to see us lose that," she said. "But, also, I want to see more people take advantage of it.”

She said one of the HJCSA’s challenges has been promotion of the site to tourists and other visitors.

"They don't really have a budget for promotion," Kugler said. "Tourism does. It's a tourism destination."

Kugler said members of the HJCSA, while turning over management of the museum to the county, would like to continue to volunteer at the site on Wednesdays. She said her office is open to the group’s participation but will likely augment HJCSA’s volunteers with a travel and tourism employee.


"Currently, they usually have one person over there," Kugler said. "In my world, we don't ever have one person. We always have two people. It's just a safety factor."

Kugler said her plan is to keep the museum open on Wednesdays for now, but then add another day — either Wednesday or Thursday — during the summer months. In the fall and winter, the museum likely will be open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, she said.

There are no plans to charge an admission fee, Kugler said.

"Our intention is to start building awareness — and also make sure that we are putting out to the public that this building is absolutely open for special tours," she said.

Bill Jarvis, a leader of the Historic Jarvisburg Colored School Association board, expressed appreciation to the county and commissioners for their past assistance with the school. Without Currituck officials’ help, "there's no question it (the site) wouldn't be where it is now," he said.

He also said HJCSA board members want to see the site grow "and continue to be part of the county because it is a very viable piece of history in Currituck County."