Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center envisions coastal communities of eastern North Carolina in which culture, community, education, economy and the environment are fully integrated for a high quality of life for all residents.



To establish a facility that will enhance the community, state and region by creating a resource which brings together the historical, cultural, artistic, environmental, and educational elements needed to preserve the rich waterfowl heritage of eastern North Carolina associated with the Core Sound area.



In 2017, Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center celebrates its 25th Anniversary, an excellent opportunity to look back and all this beautiful facility represents.

It's about people... a sacred place... a way of life


Decoy making has long been an established tradition in coastal North Carolina. Like other everyday activities that become obsolete with a changing lifestyle, the practice of turning wood into ducks had been taken for granted, ignored, possibly even forgotten. What was once an everyday practice might have become extinct had it not been for those whose love and appreciation for the art had been passed down through generations and outweighed the changes taking place around them.

Decoys have become a symbol of the heritage of eastern North Carolina. Used by Indians as well as settlers, these tools were an essential part of the individual's equipment in utilizing the natural resources for survival. The mission of the Decoy Carvers Guild and the success of the Decoy Festival brought to light the need for a more permanent contribution in preserving this waterfowl heritage. To accomplish that goal of interpreting Core Sound’s waterfowl traditions and cultural heritage the mission was determined  "to establish a facility that will enhance the community, state and region by creating a resource which brings together the historical, cultural, artistic, environmental, and educational elements needed to preserve the rich waterfowl heritage of eastern North Carolina associated with the Core Sound area."



The groundwork for a facility dedicated to waterfowling traditions in eastern Carteret County began in February of 1992. The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum, Inc. was created and a 21-member Board of Directors was appointed including carvers, area businessmen, and local government representatives. The first meeting took place in March where a preliminary proposal for a museum project was presented. After investigating all the undeveloped sites on the island it was determined that a tract of land within the National Park Service property at Shell Point provided the greatest potential for a museum project. It was decided to pursue a lease agreement with Cape Lookout National Seashore as a building site for the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum.

This proposal was presented to North Carolina's Congressional delegation and to the Superintendent's Office of Cape Lookout National Seashore. With the approval and support of the late Senator Terry Sanford, Senator Jesse Helms, Representative Walter B. Jones and a special interest from former Representative Martin Lancaster, the appropriate meetings were held and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on November 30, 1993, allowing construction of the Waterfowl Museum within Cape Lookout National Seashore on Harkers Island.

This project also included a 4-acre freshwater waterfowl habitat area (on site) that has garnered the support and expertise of Ducks Unlimited, the NC Wildlife Commission, US Fish & Wildlife, the Forestry Service, the NC Wildlife Habitat Foundation and the National Park Service. Hiking trails, view platforms and programming is now open to the public throughout the year.

We had a home and the work began.

The Museum began operations in a temporary facility next door to the Harkers Island School and Fire Department where programming, a gift shop and operations brought thousands together each year to learn more about our plans for the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum.
Fund raising for the new museum facility began in May of 1996 with a goal of $1 million for the first phase of site development. Construction on the building began in February 1999, the exterior completed in 2000 (with only back porches and decks to be done) and the second floor framework completed. Despite hurricanes and floods and the fund raising challenges during the fall of 1999 brought to eastern North Carolina, progress continued, although not at the pace Museum officials had hoped. The economic effects of Floyd drained both local resources and foundation giving as counties inland worked to rebuild their communities.

From 2000 - 2003 while continuing fund-raising efforts, the Museum worked on an even more important part of this project ¬- "building" the Museum's educational programming plans, developing the exhibit concept and establishing the committee and staff resources the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum would need to meet the needs and potential the new facility would bring. 

The educational wing of the building was completed Spring 2003 sand the Museum operations and programs moved from the temporary location into this new facility and began the real outreach and community work of the Museum. The board and staff worked long and hard to make that move, accepting the challenge with enthusiasm and confidence that the reality of this building would be a constant reminder of what OUR MEMBERS can do.

From 2003 until 2009 work continued.  Programs and projects expanded, membership grew, and thousands came to visit the education side of the building throughout the year.  Temporary community exhibits, continued work on Willow Pond, a growing outreach program that included the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2004 and more and more fund-raising events throughout the year kept membership encouraged that SOMEDAY the facility would be completed, the gallery opening, the tower accessible and exhibits in place.  



That day finally came in 2009 with the help, faith, support and hard work of thousands, the Core Sound Gallery was opened on October 29, 2009.  A great celebration continued throughout the fall of 2009 and into the winter, spring and summer of 2010.  Partnerships with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the NC Grassroots Science Museums Collaborative helped make the transition possible, along with the continued giving from our members and the hard work of staff and volunteers.

Today, the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center continues its year round operation with a generous membership of more than 2500 from across the state and region, a dedicated staff and board, hundreds of volunteers and a working partnership with Cape Lookout National Seashore.  The work continues and the challenges are many, but the history of this organization tells the story of men and women who are dedicated to the vision this institution has set forth to serve this community as a "keeper" of the past, a "gathering place" for our communities today and a "visionary" that will make sure that future generations will never forget the truest meaning of Core Sound heritage.

In 2017 as the 25-year mark approaches, the need for preserving Down East history, traditions and stories is more important than ever.  Core Sound’s commitment to science education, community sustainability and economic opportunities continues to bring opportunities to the Core Sound region through partnerships and collaborations.  This institution’s history has been an amazing example of what hard work, personal investment and community vision can accomplish.  

Today the facility is just the beginning – the tangible outcome of a much greater effort involving millions of dollars and thousands of talented, giving people investing years of work and commitment to this place, these people, our way of life. 

Thank you members, volunteers, contributors, supporters, partners, teachers, visitors, students and all who have been given, visited, shared and invested.  We have much to be proud of together.

And the work has just begun!