RALEIGH – The last few months have seen a surge in attendance at a number of North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources attractions, including record breaking numbers at the N.C. Museum of History’s African American Cultural Celebration, the Department reported today. The news showcased a continuing upward trend in attendance at North Carolina historic sites and museums.
From 2010 to 2011, overall visitation at Cultural Resources locations was up 18 percent. In total, 4.4 million people attended Cultural Resources programs, exhibits, and sites in 2011.
The African American Cultural Celebration, held each year at the N.C. Museum of History in downtown Raleigh, saw a record-breaking 10,256 visitors at this year’s event on Jan. 28 — an increase of 36 percent over the previous year’s event. The celebration, presented in partnership with the N.C. African American Heritage Commission, featured more than 75 presenters – well-known musicians, award-winning authors, storytellers, dancers, playwrights, re-enactors and others – who highlighted the contributions of African Americans to North Carolina.
Elsewhere, the USS North Carolina Battleship in Wilmington posted its best December in 18 years, with almost 6,800 paid visitors to the ship, an increase of 45 percent. Battleship staff reported that January visitation at the Battleship was up 28 percent over the previous year as well. More than 150,000 people from all 100 North Carolina counties, all 50 states, and 42 countries saw the “Rembrandt in America” exhibition at the N.C. Museum of Art during its three month stay, which ended Jan. 22.
“Historic Sites and museums are a boon to the local economy in both urban and rural areas, as they attract those cultural and heritage travelers, who stay longer and spend more money,” said Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle. “Families are looking for value, quality entertainment, and learning opportunities, and we make those experiences available all across the state.”
Last month, Carlisle was sworn in as a member of the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. She and her fellow board members serve as advisers to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States.
Out of 27 State Historic Sites and 9 museums within the Department of Cultural Resources, 21 reported increases in attendance in 2011. The biggest percentage increase was Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum, in Sedalia, which posted a 65 percent increase in visitation in 2011. Fort Fisher in Kure Beach reported the highest attendance at 601,336, down slightly from 618,373 the year before.
Several other historic sites that reported higher attendance in 2011 were able to offer new amenities to travelers. At Governor Charles B. Aycock Birthplace in Fremont, the reopening of the restored Aycock home, construction of a new picnic shelter and expanded programming, particularly with interpreters, led to a 26 percent increase in visitation. Additional construction at the CSS Neuse State Historic Site in Kinston also benefitted from construction and interest in the Civil War 150th commemoration activities, which led to a 35 percent increase in visitation. Horne Creek Living Historical Farm in Pinnacle opened a new visitor center, and expanded the farm heritage program in cooperation with the agricultural extension service. Combined with expanded events, Horne Creek saw a 51 percent increase in visitation.
Programming also contributed to the uptick in visitation at many locations. President James K. Polk historic site has benefitted from the return of Mecklenburg County school groups, creative 2nd Saturday programs and a summer camp and enriched events. It saw a 17 percent increase in visitation. In 2011, visitors from all 50 states and from 28 countries came to the Maritime Museum in Beaufort. The exhibit, and ongoing activity at the Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck site, continues to draw worldwide attention. The Maritime Museum, as well as the majority of North Carolina’s historic sites and museums, is free to the public.
About the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council, and the State Archives.
Cultural Resources champions North Carolina’s creative industry, which employs nearly 300,000 North Carolinians and contributes more than $41 billion to the state’s economy. To learn more, visit www.ncculture.com