FAYETTEVILLE — Despite a 50 percent cut to its operational budget and a loss of eight full-time staff members, monthly visitation to the Museum of the Cape Fear is on the rise. During 2012, increasing numbers of visitors have come to experience the state history museum complex. Recent months have shown double digit increases, including a 229% March spike in on-site visitors over the previous year.
“Our success is due to the incredible hard work of our dedicated staff,” said Administrator David Reid, who along with a staff of four and a cast of more than 60 volunteers, greets the public five days a week at the downtown museum located on Arsenal Avenue.
“To help boost awareness, the Museum of the Cape Fear has planned more special programs and has spent a considerable amount of time with community outreach,” says Reid. “We haven’t done it alone, however. In fact, we have some great community partners such as the Lafayette Society who we collaborated with for the Lafayette Birthday Celebration, and the Gilbert Theater, for the very popular evening Poe House tours that we hosted in October. Outreach, collaboration, and advertising all have made a difference.”
Another big attraction was the Queen Anne’s Revenge exhibit, featuring artifacts recovered from the wreck of Blackbeard’s flagship near Beaufort. During the week of spring break, staff held daily activities, including a pirate costume contest that provided fun and educational programming while students were out of school. More than 6,000 visitors came to the exhibit during its March through June run at the museum. Reid says that helped raise overall awareness of the museum and drew visitors to the web page as well. The Festival of Yesteryear Program in September and Halloween programs in October also drew enthusiastic crowds.
Additionally, the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) includes the museum in its advertising and program planning, as does the Arts Council of Fayetteville, which is currently running advertisements in Our State magazine and features the museum.
“The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex is a wonderful partner,” says CVB CEO John Meroski. “Our many shared projects improve our visitor experiences, including a passport program and our geocaching trail, Trail Trek. Visitors always find exhibits and programs that contribute richness and meaning to their time in town when they visit the museum complex.”
North Carolina is known far and wide for its authentic cultural experiences, and historic sites and museums are great destinations for those important cultural and heritage travelers, who stay longer and spend more money in local economies.
“Visitors are discovering that our state supported historic sites and museums offer great family fun,” says Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle, who noted that state historic sites overall are seeing an increase in visitation, including a 47% increase during September over the previous September.
Since it first opened in 1988, the Museum of the Cape Fear has showcased the peoples and progress of southern North Carolina. The museum presents exhibits, and a calendar of programs and annual events including a Civil War Quiz Bowl, History Camp, Festival of Yesteryear, and a Holiday Jubilee, which is Dec. 2 this year.
To learn more about the special events occurring every day at state cultural and historic attractions, visit NCCulture.com. The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex is a unit of N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. For more information on North Carolina arts, history and culture, visit Cultural Resources online.