$10M in capital improvements, unanimity among local leaders needed for state to take over Cape Fear Museum, study finds

$10M in capital improvements, unanimity among local leaders needed for state to take over Cape Fear Museum, study finds
A majority of the county commission would have to approve the museum’s transfer to the state system. (Source: Ryan Koresko)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - A study has found it is feasible for the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) to incorporate the Cape Fear Museum into its regional museum system, but only if certain factors are met.

One of the most significant factors, the study found, is the apparent lack of unanimity among local government leadership, the museum support organizations and staff on the state taking over the museum.

“[F]or a transfer (of the Cape Fear Museum to the DNCR) to be fully successfully, more of a consensus needs to be shared among stakeholders,” the study noted.

Still, the state Historical Commission on Friday voted to forward the study on to the General Assembly, albeit with an emphasis on the concerns over dissension among the local stakeholders and a plea for adequate funding should museum ultimately be added into the state system.

The General Assembly commissioned the study in July 2019 through the passage of Senate Bill 525. A committee comprised of state experts was directed to “evaluate the feasibility of operating a museum in southeastern North Carolina.” The Cape Fear Museum was the only institution that satisfied the committee’s criteria for consideration, according to the study.

Other findings noted in the study include the need for at least $10 million in initial capital investment to the facility in addition to annual expenditures of $1.7 million, as well as a salary inequity between the museum’s staff and state counterparts.

While museum staff and its advisory board are largely opposed to the proposal (primarily due to concerns over pay cuts and less local control over the museum’s collection, according to the committee chair), the study noted New Hanover County leadership only expressed support for the idea if the state assumed all initial capital improvements and ongoing annual costs.

New Hanover County officials say this matter still needs to be brought before County Commissioners but a date has yet to be scheduled.

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