Area museums reimagine ways to keep art and history alive during pandemic

Wrightsville Beach Museum (Photo: Peyton Furtado/WWAY)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Many local businesses are struggling to stay afloat as the pandemic continues, and unfortunately, Wilmington’s art and history sector is in the same boat.

Wrightsville Beach Museum’s varnish was still drying in its freshly renovated building the day North Carolina closed all nonessential businesses. 140 days later, they’re still closed and out $60,000.

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The museum’s executive director, Madeline Flagler, is reimagining its entire set up to keep their head above water.

“We have been throwing spaghetti on the wall just as fast as we can, trying to see what’s going to stick and what doesn’t work,” Flager said.

The nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $2.12 billion industry in North Carolina — one that supports 71,977 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $201.5 million in local and state government revenue.

According to the American Alliance of Museums:

  • One third of the United States’ museums could close by next fall.
  • 87 percent only have enough money to operate for 12 months or less.
  • 56 percent only have enough money to operate for 6 months or less.

“This is a storm we will survive, but it is absolutely a struggle,” Flagler added.

Wilmington Railroad Museum Executive Director Holli Saperstein says, “While we are doing everything in our power to look for ways to get through this, some programs and financial resources are not available to non-profits. We hope that resources come available for museums.”

For the past two months, Flagler, Saperstein, and several other museum directors in the Cape Fear have had Zoom meetings to develop game plans and provide support for one another.

They hope that by bringing Wilmington’s art and history to the public, they can keep it alive while serving their community.