July 1, 2011

Blackbeard Strikes Gold at N.C. Maritime Museum

From Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, and 26 states in the U.S., a tide of more than 12,000 fans swept through the North Carolina Maritime Museum doors in just seven days to experience the new “Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge 1718″ exhibit in Beaufort.

Fans of pirates, history, archaeology and mystery find a great story in the exhibit that is proving to be a huge attraction on the Crystal Coast. “It’s a ‘Wow!’” said Carol Lohr, Executive Director of the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority. “We have had a huge increase in people asking about the exhibit. It just goes to show the people are interested in the true story,” said Lohr.

The May news story about raising an anchor from the shipwreck Queen Anne’s Revenge, a project of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, has been carried around the world - from Turkmenistan to the Philippines, Australia, the United Kingdom and China.

“Our volunteers from the Friends of the Maritime Museum are having a good time meeting throngs of people who hail from Indiana, Ohio, California and all along the Eastern seaboard,” says Claire Aubel, public relations coordinator for the Museum. ”Most often we hear people say ‘I didn’t know that.‘ ” Aubel also reports that kids are especially fascinated by the weaponry and armaments.

Comparing the tiny trade beads, buckles and flecks of gold to the exhibit’s samples of still-encrusted artifacts in tanks - soaking in their bath of salt water - brings into sharp focus the skill of the conservators who reclaim the small treasures.

Cultural and heritage travelers, like the family from Seattle who bought a Museum membership just to see the preview, are important to North Carolina’s economy. Tourists with interest in history and the arts are likely to travel farther to get the experiences they seek, according to a national study conducted by Mandala Research for the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism (USCHT) Marketing Council, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce. They spend an average of $994 per trip. About half of overnight leisure trips were 500 miles or more from home, and over a third traveled between 100 and 300 miles for a day trip.

Museum officials expect to see continued interest in the exhibit and are on track to surpass visitation numbers. “This is the most successful exhibit we’ve launched in the past three decades,” comments Joseph Schwarzer, Director of the North Carolina Maritime Museums. In 2010, the average attendance for all museums surveyed by the American Association of Museums was 105,855. For the second year in a row, museums in the United States expanded their service to the American people despite fewer resources and significant economic stress. Visitation for the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort in Fiscal Year 2009-2010 was 206,535, and Schwarzer said it is “on track” to surpass that figure this year.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge Shipwreck Project, Underwater Archaeology Branch, and N.C. Maritime Museums are within the Office of Archives and History in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at www.ncculture.com.
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