It has been a hard week for all of us personally and as a community. The storm has brought heartaches big and small to Down East and throughout Eastern North Carolina. Many are still in the midst of flooding and returning to completely ravaged towns and neighborhoods, and our heart goes out to them. We remain thankful that Florence came in at 100 mph instead of 140 and that we have homes to repair and clean. We are blessed, and we know it.
Throughout Down East and all of Carteret County we’ve began putting back the pieces. Friends and strangers from all over have called, showed up with supplies, and donated to our relief fund - a critical part of helping Down East rebuild. In all these ways, the Museum’s role in this community has been reaffirmed.
In the midst the of the damage and pain throughout Down East, the Museum has suffered far more damage than originally seen. I’ve waited to share an update on the status on the museum, not wanting to add to the burden around us or deter attention, but you must know. It is time for our community, members and friends throughout the region to know where we are at here “at the end of the road.”
My first trip to the museum to check on the building was all about making sure the roof had not blown off, a tree had not fallen on it, and the tide had not gotten in. I was relieved and thankful that none of that happened. The next day, I found leaks, some we had anticipated and others new, but it seemed that for the most part all was in fairly good condition. I knew we’d need a new roof on the back and carpets cleaned but thought the museum had weathered the storm reasonably well.
I was wrong.
On Monday, when the rain had finally stopped and the sun had came out, we began to see the extent of the damage. By then it was clear that the leaks were significant and a serious mold and mildew problem had developed in the building.
We contacted ServPro, a commercial water damage restoration and mold remediation company, immediately. Mold was growing in the carpet, the floors were buckling and sheetrock was falling in places throughout the building. Pam’s office was soaking wet. The education hall had major leaks and moisture had spread behind the sheetrock throughout the museum. Some areas — the library, gift shop, kitchen, and tower — all seem to be in good condition with the exception of the spreading mold and mildew.
Adjusters are scheduled this week for both the the museum building policy and collections policy. We have been working closely with our local insurance company Chalk & Gibbs and they are confident that ServPro is the right company to lead this restoration effort. The National Park Service has cleared the yards and cut the leaning trees away.
For now, we know the work ahead will require all the carpet to removed and much of the sheetrock replaced. The building will be sealed to properly dry and treat the structure. We are preparing to remove the collection in order to have the objects and artifacts cleaned, packed, and properly stored. Dehumidifiers and drying fans have already been placed in the building, the roof has been tarped to try to help prevent further damage and museum staff are working from home. Our office phone number is now forwarded to cell phones and the offices are being cleared out. The museum store is ready to pack and the work toward recovery is underway.
Once the adjusters are on site, we can get a more specific understanding of the extent of the damage, what the policy covers, what it doesn’t, and what additional funds will be needed. We are already researching other sources including USDA, FEMA and other state/federal disaster assistance for community institutions.
In the meantime, we are looking at how best to maintain our operation while this work is happening. We hope to have temporary office on site as soon as possible and will be moving our store operation into town. Museum staff will need your help as soon as temporary locations are confirmed. The work will go on.
For all of us who have walked through that building, our hearts are broken. All the years and years of hard work…now to do over again. But we are determined. It will be what it was and even more beautiful soon. This is a solemn moment in the museum’s history for sure. But we will rise again, you just wait and see.
Our first concern remains helping our community get back in their homes, churches and businesses. People are who and what we are about. Despite the damage to the building, the museum will continue to help our friends and family pull their lives back together.
Resources are stretched right now with all the damage south and inland — and we will work hard to put our troubles in perspective. But, this museum we have all invested out hearts and minds and millions of dollars into, has lots of hard work ahead. Someway, somehow, we will take this as another opportunity to show our determination, commitment and strength.
Once we know more about the extent of repairs, what the insurance will cover and what the sources of federal and state disaster aid are needed and available, we will map out a plan to do whatever it takes to restore this sacred place in a way that will be even more meaningful as the centerpiece of Down East heritage. I know we can and I know we will, but it will take time and all of us rededicated to this building and what it means to our community. “We can do hard things.”