Pieces of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center collections have made their way back to the building on Harkers Island, but coronavirus has postponed the reopening. (Dennis Thomason photo)

Like many events countywide, the grand reopening of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center has been placed on hold because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Originally set to reopen Saturday, April 3 with a kickoff to a monthlong series of special events, the museum has followed suit with state guidelines, as announced by Gov. Roy Cooper, placing a cap of no more than 100 people gathering at a single locale. A lower number is likely if the pandemic continues to spread in the coming days and weeks.

In gearing for that possibility, N.C. Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson announced Monday afternoon that the state is matching guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit gatherings to no more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. However, at this time, police can only enforce a ban on events of over 100 people that Gov. Cooper issued Saturday, March 14.

Museum officials hope reopening festivities can be rescheduled later in the spring after coronavirus restrictions have been lifted on travel and the number of people allowed to gather in a single locale.

A post on the museum’s Facebook page ensured that every effort will be made to reschedule soon: “In the meantime, we will be working toward making sure that the opening and the rescheduled events are set ASAP so that folks can make plans to come REALLY celebrate spring, our opening and hopefully the calm conclusion of the virus-crisis we are experiencing right now.”

The Facebook post also noted that museum workers and volunteers are hoping for a preview of sorts before the grand reopening official is launched.

“We may try to have a sneak peek preview during Easter week if folks are out and about, but we will play that by ear,” the post indicated.

In the meantime, work at the museum continues with the return of furniture, library books, display cases, exhibition panels and community treasures.  Truckloads of items fill the building, ready to be arranged for the opening.  All items had to be emptied from the building when Hurricane Florence caused more than $3.4 million in damages to the structure.  

“It is pretty overwhelming to see all these pieces of our museum coming back after 18 months of storage,” said Museum Collections Manager Pam Morris. “We are excited to be at this point in our recovery, and we are looking forward to putting everything back in its place over the next weeks and months as we get back to our museum work.”

Rebuilding of the museum has taken more than a year since Hurricane Florence destroyed the roof.  The recovery included a new roof and repair to damages caused by 30 inches of rain that resulted in mold infestation. 

“The museum’s recovery, like our community’s rebuilding, has taken longer than we ever expected, but that makes the return home even more meaningful and encouraging,” noted Museum Director Karen Amspacher in a news release. “Memories of those harrowing days after the storm when we were literally taking the place apart and putting hundreds of boxes to remove it from the mold that was taking over are hard to handle, but the excitement of bringing it all home again is even stronger.”

It has taken a lot of hands on deck to bring the museum back to life with its rich history etched in decoys and colorful, scaled-down models of boats, as well as being brought back to life in paintings and old photographs.

Added Amspacher, “We are thankful for all the contributions that have been made to make this return home possible and to all the volunteers who are helping us unpack, clean and reorganize and reinstall the displays, exhibits and collections that we love.”

A volunteer meeting, scheduled Saturday, March 21 has also been postponed until a later date.

As for volunteers, the Facebook post also notes they “are still needed to help with all the work that is underway at the museum to prepare for the opening. We welcome anyone who is ‘working from home’ to come help with all that needs to be done.”

The museum is located at the end of Harkers Island at 1785 Island Rd. For more information, call 728-1500.

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