Core Sound Stop 6: Core Sound Waterfowl Museum
Like many old communities on the Southern coast, Harkers Island is undergoing a great transformation. People from elsewhere in the state and country are arriving and buying land on the island, building summer houses or settling in as year-round residents. Fishing and hunting and boatbuilding no longer form the core of Harkers Island’s daily life, and the old ways of living are becoming increasingly rare.
The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum, at the southeastern tip of the island where Shell Point juts into Core Sound, provides a snug haven for the centuries’ old traditions of these maritime communities. The museum serves as a center for the preservation and documentation of the region’s material culture, and a gathering place where Down Easterners celebrate and renew old ties.
Museum exhibits display beautiful historical and modern-day examples of the region’s finest decoy carving, as well as handmade nets, crab pots, and other tools of the region’s trades, all of which require a high level of skill and experience to make. Different communities along the Sound, like Stacy, Bettie, Davis, and Otway, tell their own stories in exhibits that lovingly showcase the daily lives of their hardy forebears, with handcrafts like quilts and tatting, implements of their various maritime occupations, family letters, sports regalia, and many other treasured items.
By no means a museum only of the past, the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum is a lively venue for concerts, quilting bees, and other events that bring together the people of Carteret County. On the third Tuesday evening of every month, the members of one community in the Core Sound region gather at the museum for a covered-dish supper, where they discuss their own heritage and perhaps reunite with old neighbors who have come home for the occasion.
The gift shop is a good source for local crafts and music, as well as a wide selection of literature about the region. In particular, look for the annual Mailboat, a magazine about Core Sound’s heritage written by its homegrown authors. Also highly recommended is The Harkers Island Cookbook, a widely popular compilation of traditional local recipes collected by Harkers Island United Methodist Women.
The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM every Monday through Saturday, and from 2 PM to 5 PM every Sunday, with the exceptions of Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Admission is free. The museum is located next to the headquarters of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, at 1788 Island Road, set back among the trees on the left-hand side of the. 252-728-1500.
Leaving Harkers Island, backtrack on Harkers Island Road over the bridge to Straits. You can follow Harkers Island Road all the way back to Otway, where it rejoins 70, or when Harkers Island Road turns sharply to the north, east of Straits, you can continue going straight, on Straits Road. Make a left on Marshallberg Road at Tusk, and then join 70 again at Smyrna. Follow 70 around Jarrett Bay to Davis.
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Photo credits: Harkers Island; photo by Roger Haile. Franklin Roosevelt (wearing black, in cart) hunting in Carteret County, and hunting party aboard a menhaden boat; photos in the collection of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum.