Beaufort History Museum to move to The Arsenal

emoody@beaufortgazette.comDecember 12, 2013 

The Arsenal in Beaufort in September 2009.

FILE STAFF PHOTO

The Beaufort History Museum is moving back home.

In early spring, the museum will leave City Hall to return to The Arsenal, which houses the city's official visitor center at the corner of Craven and Carteret streets, said Blakely Williams, president of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"From our point of view, it's going to really enhance the visitor's experience, to be able to come in and get all sorts of good information and then go upstairs and visit the museum," she said.

The chamber has a $1-per-year lease for 99 years with the city for The Arsenal. The chamber's sublease with the museum also will be for $1 a year and is for five years, with a renewal option for another five, Williams said. It was signed Thursday after months of negotiations between chamber and museum boards.

Museum board president Katherine Lang has long said her ultimate goal was to see the museum return to The Arsenal, where it is more accessible to residents and tourists.

The exhibit and storage space will be smaller than it is now -- from 3,500 square feet to 2,470 square feet. But it will allow a different configuration that will provide new display opportunities, she said. The museum board is commissioning a study to develop a long-range plan for museum improvements.

"I think Beaufort is going to become more and more a destination for history tourists because our history is so interesting, and it is so intertwined with American history," Lang said.

The museum will split utility costs with the chamber, as part of the agreement. Lang did not have an estimate for how much that would be, but said admission fees would be increased from $3 to $5 to compensate for the increased costs.

The second floor of The Arsenal, now used for meeting and event space, will become the museum's new location, Williams said, with other space available for offices and museum functions.

The museum will move in after the city installs a new heating and air-conditioning system, allowing the museum to provide a climate-controlled storage space, Lang said. In the past, when the museum was at The Arsenal, some artifacts had to be thrown away after they deteriorated when they were stored improperly. The museum was at that location until 2009.

The museum subsequently left the building and reopened in spring 2012, under an agreement with the city to use part of the first floor of City Hall rent-free for at least two years, or until a permanent location was found.

The museum includes rotating special exhibits and standing exhibits on the area's past. Artifacts include those from the original collection, much of which was donated by Beaufort residents over the years, and photographs, ship models, re-created clothing and other items that were added more recently.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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