Stuart Ingram saw his dream come true when the Museum of Coastal Carolina opened its doors to the public May 19, 1991. Ingram had envisioned such a museum for 25 years, ever since a young boy questioned him about the fish he was catching in the surf on Ocean Isle Beach. Ingram not only kept the idea of a museum alive; he also embraced the challenge of raising funds, acquiring land, building a museum, and obtaining exhibits. Those who knew him often speak of his imagination, perseverance, enthusiasm and tenacity.
In Ingram’s own words, “The dedication of the original building was held May 19, 1991. After a few brief remarks by some of the directors of the museum the traditional ribbon tied to the entrance railing was cut by Mayor Betty Williamson and the guests entered the Museum for a first view of the interior. Without exception the guests expressed their favorable impression of the museum and its exhibits.”
In September of 1992, construction on a 2,100-foot addition to the museum began; it was completed in the early summer of 1993. Construction of a second addition to the museum began in the summer of 1995; it was completed in the spring of 1996. The third addition was begun in August of 1997; it was completed in early 1998. Ingram then turned his attention to the stars. Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach opened its doors to the public in May of 2002. Sadly, Ingram passed away just prior to opening day. His wife, Louise, stayed active in both the museum and the planetarium until her death in 2013.
Since its beginning, the Museum of Coastal Carolina has been involved in entertaining and educational activities, programs, and lectures for visitors of all ages. Thousands of school children visit the museum every year, as do summer visitors to the area. During the quiet winter months, the museum remains open to the public two days a week and also hosts a popular monthly Tuesday night lecture series.
Both the museum and the planetarium rely heavily on volunteers. This dedicated group of volunteers helps with administrative tasks, building and grounds maintenance, educational activities, fund raising, and much more. They are the public “face” of the museum and planetarium.
New volunteers are always welcome, especially during this time as the facilities gear up for the busy summer season. Both facilities are open six days a week during the summer. Anyone interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities should call Joyce Houle, volunteer coordinator, at 910-579-1014 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a Brunswick County resident and have never visited the Museum of Coastal Carolina, consider joining the fun on March 26 when the museum hosts its annual Family Day from 10-2. The museum is located at 21 East Second Street in Ocean Isle Beach, NC.