Take a Trip Back in Time











Every Second Saturday at the Maritime Museum at Southport

BY: Lisa P. Stites


During WWII, women were trained to spot shadows out over the water. They carried small books with them and knew how to identify what was a friendly plane and which ones belonged to the enemies we were fighting, which was very important information.

That’s just one of many interesting bits of history at the heart of the theme for the Second Saturday program August 8 at the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport.

During the summer months — June, July and August — the Museum focuses on a particular topic, or theme, to draw even more visitors than normal. August’s theme, “And Our Flag Was Still There,” will highlight the military through the ages. Second Saturday programs run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Lori Sanderlin, Director of Education for the Southport Museum, said the Second Saturday programs are a way to expose the public to history and local artisans.

“We feel like we’re providing a great opportunity for the community,” Sanderlin said. “We’re very passionate about what we do.”

Displays, combined with hands-on events, make for a program that offers something for children and adults alike. And on the Museum’s grounds, local artisans sell their hand-crafted goods, including shirts, jams, soaps, jewelry and wooden toys. There are usually between 25-30 vendors and approximately 400-500 visitors attend the Second Saturday programs.

July’s program was “We Are Tar Heels: The Naval Stores.” While learning about the Long Leaf Pine, which produced many products used in making boats, children had the chance to make pinecone birdfeeders. Sanderlin also had them write one fact they either already knew about the Tar Heel state or something they learned at the Museum. She used the paper they wrote on to help “build” a pine tree in the museum.

“I’m an educator. I’m a historian,” Sanderlin said.


Since the theme was about Naval stores, displays of tools were also incorporated into the Museum’s permanent displays. “It’s very kinesthetic,” Sanderlin said.

Previous Second Saturday themes included programs on trains and pirates — children got to make their own eye patches that day. The military is always a popular topic, and one program focused solely on the navy.

August’s theme again focuses on the military, and members of the Carolina Living History Guild will be participating with members portraying the military from the American Revolution and the Civil War. Reenactors will set up displays and offer educational information about a variety of topics, including arts of the sailor and medicine from the American Revolution time period, and steam engines, torpedoes and other weapons from the Civil War era. Guild members will come from all across North and South Carolina. Since 2004, the Guild’s members have travelled throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, taking displays to museums and historic sites, Guild member Chris Grimes said.

Guild member Andrew Duppstadt said the reason they participate in programs like the Second Saturday event is that it’s another way to teach people history.

“The practice of living history allows us to reach out to a broad audience in terms of age, gender, race, and place of residence to teach people history they might not otherwise learn or be exposed to,” Duppstadt said. “Many people will learn things from us that they might never have thought about otherwise, like how a steam engine works or how medical practices in the 18th century were different (or sometimes similar) to modern practices. We give folks a chance to see and experience history in a much different way than they can in a classroom or with a book. They get to experience a little part of it for themselves. In this way, we hope that people come away with a little bit better understanding of what life was like in the 18th or 19th century.”

The WWII displays and events planned for the August 8 program will include details about women on the home front, clothing, hairstyles, and Victory gardens, which were planted during the war to help counter the demand on the public food supply. There will also be WWII era posters and music from the time as well.

“You have to get the feel for it,” Sanderlin explained.

Planning for the Second Saturday events starts at least a year in advance, Sanderlin said. After choosing a topic, there is a lot of legwork to be done in lining up displays and participants. In fact, planning for the June 11, 2016 Second Saturday is already underway. That Second Saturday will be all about colonial life in the Cape Fear Region.

Sanderlin said the museum staff come up with ideas for programs, like the Second Saturdays or children’s camps, in a variety of ways. Staff at the Museum brainstorm, they get ideas from parents or other visitors to the Museum, or even through Facebook.

“We try to take in public opinion in our programming. We always welcome suggestions,” she said

One parent said her daughter wanted to do a princess-themed camp. Princesses are not exactly a maritime museum topic, but mermaids and lady pirates are. Sanderlin said it was that suggestion that led to the scheduling of a Nautical Girls children’s camp.

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The Museum has an ideal location to share local, maritime and military history. Located at 204 E. Moore Street, the Museum is adjacent to the Garrison House of Fort Johnston. The back of the building has a picture perfect view of the river. There is even a periscope in the Museum that gives visitors an up close look at the Bald Head Lighthouse, boats going by and all the other activity on the water.

Permanent exhibits range from a Megalodon tooth that’s probably 20,000 million years old to pictures of the devastation experienced in Southport the wake of Hurricane Hazel in 1954, and much in between. There are exhibits about pirates, the first settlers in the area, early explorers who came to the area in the 1500s, pirates, naval stores and shipbuilding, colonization of Charlestown, Brunswick Town, Fort Johnston, the steamboat era, the fishing industry, the Civil War, WWI and WWII and lighthouses.


There is also a scavenger hunt for children. They get a form that gives them items to find throughout the museum. “They’re learning as they go,” Sanderlin said. Once they successfully complete it, they can pick an item from the Treasure Box, conveniently located in the gift shop. Children can do the scavenger hunts during Second Saturday programs as well.



The Museum’s regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and admission is free. Visit the Museum’s website athttp://ncmaritimemuseums.com/ for more information, or check out the Southport Museum’s Facebook page.

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