Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum reopens

By on April 17, 2024

Glimpse into the main museum. (Photo courtesy of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum)

By Mary Ellen Riddle | Outer Banks Voice

Initially conceived and heavily funded by the Hatteras Island people, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum opened its doors in 2002. Its mission was to share the remarkable maritime history of the area—a history that crossed the Atlantic.

The public is invited to the grand reopening and ribbon cutting ceremony on May 20 at 10 a.m. to unveil a completely renovated and long awaited “permanent museum” that its now retired director, Joseph Schwarzer, worked diligently over the years to achieve. Finding funding was essential.

“The museum garnered support from various sources, including a significant $4.2 million from the state in 2021 for renovations, along with contributions from Dare County, the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, and others,” says interim director Maria Vann.

Schwartzer brought vast knowledge of underwater archeology to the operation and, over the years, secured significant objects including WWII, shipwreck and lifesaving artifacts. Alita Carroll, a longtime museum volunteer and former coordinator for volunteerism and education who currently sits on the museum board, watched the site grow.

“I started volunteering in January 2002 when the museum office was above the post office and the building was a work in progress,” says Carroll. “I’ve been thrilled to watch the museum grow in stages under the leadership of Joe Schwarzer, to what it became and is now becoming, a busy, interesting, exciting place for visitors and locals to learn about the unique maritime history of Hatteras Island.”

The state eventually took over the museum in 2007 under the auspices of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, which eventually became the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Following years of design meetings with contractor Riggs Ward Design out of Richmond, VA, Schwarzer and staff including state historians, exhibit designers, and education and collection specialists, the redesign came to fruition.

“They were able to help shape the exhibit narratives and support them with objects we had in the collection, as well as finding other objects to help tell a fuller and accurate history of our area,” says Vann. On site during the opening will be the hands-on North Carolina Aquariums’ Aquatic Wildlife Inhabiting Shipwrecks display. Guests will also enjoy an 11 a.m. program on the “U.S. Lifesaving Service Operations Along the North Carolina Coast.” The museum is scheduling additional programs and activities during the opening week.

What’s new? “The revamped museum boasts an array of interactive experiences, from touch screens to holographic video displays, providing visitors with engaging ways to delve into the region’s maritime heritage,” says Vann. Children will enjoy scavenger hunts and entertaining and educational programs. Highlights include interactive displays on shipwrecks off the coast, a life-sized Monomoy lifeboat and the museum’s crowning glory: the original Cape Hatteras Fresnel Lens. Visitors will journey from pre-colonial times to the present.

Monomoy surfboat image. (Photo courtesy Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum)

The outside of the museum, with its stunning ship timbers design, will remain the same. Interior structural changes include a relocation of the front desk to the center of the room backed by a curved wall that will lead guests into the main gallery. The rooms to the right of the front doors are being reworked into a library/education space. Even the Meekins Chandlery Gift Shop was redesigned to add an entry from the main gallery.

“The design is set up so that we can be adaptable and update to make it a new experience,” says Vann. “The displays themselves aren’t just static: we want people to interact with them and form a deeper connection.”

(Maritime history connections can also be made through the website: that features educational lessons and videos. Also check out Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Museum Hours: Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free (donations are appreciated and directly support museum operations.)



Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).



  • Janet T

    Could you provide the address/location of this new museum? It sounds fantastic!

    Thursday, Apr 18 @ 8:03 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Sure. 59200 Museum Drive, Hatteras 27943

    Thursday, Apr 18 @ 9:11 am
  • Glenn

    Definitely on the “to do” list this year! Sounds wonderful…great addition to the local community! Thanks for sharing these great news!

    Thursday, Apr 18 @ 4:10 pm