Exhibits Department

The NC Maritime Museum at Southport branch focuses on the maritime history of the lower Cape Fear River. The permanent exhibits and educational programming focus on fisheries, shipwrecks, hurricanes, and military conflicts ranging from piracy to World War II. Temporary exhibits showcase a variety of maritime-themed displays.

Digital Exhibits


Opened September 3, 2022
With so many questions being asked about the Megalodon shark teeth on display and in the teaching collection, Intern Sam tackled a few of the most commonly asked questions and created this digital exhibit. 

*Please note: Viewing may not be ideal on a tablet or phone

Deadly Dozen

Opened June 19, 2021
North Carolina coastal communities have weathered many storms and rebuild every time without reservation. Many hurricanes have impacted the maritime environment over the course of time. Look at the cultural history of what is now the National Weather Service, twelve storms from Hurricane Hazel (1954) to Hurricane Florence (2018), and how to prepare, live through, and recover from them.

*Please note: Viewing may not be ideal on a tablet or phone


Opened June 10, 2021
People love pirates, and while Blackbeard is often a person of interest, the Lower Cape Fear had it’s own pirate, a Gentleman Pirate. Click through this virtual exhibit to take a crash course on Stede Bonnet!

*Please note: Viewing may not be ideal on a tablet or phone

Indigenous Mariners of Coastal North Carolina

Opened November 13, 2020
Click through an exploration of the first inhabitants of the Lower Cape Fear, what became of these early tribes, and what we learn from them today. Also available for the first time is the NC Maritime Museum at Southport’s Land Acknowledgement!

*Please note: Viewing may not be ideal on a tablet or phone

Steaming into the 20th Century 

Opened September 24, 2020
Join our crew in learning about the Age of Steam and the communities of the Lower Cape Fear during the turn of the 20th century. This exhibit will explore how steam engines work, the island and beach communities, travel within the region and around the world, as well as the African American experience in this post-Civil War era. Access the exhibit through the title above. Enjoy images, news clippings, videos, and more!

Many thanks to Old Baldy Lighthouse and Smith Island Museum, Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, and Elaine Blackmon Henson for images, information, and support!

*Please note: Viewing may not be ideal on a tablet or phone

“Construimus, Batuimus. We Build, We Fight”

Opened May 1, 2020
Just because the building is closed, doesn’t mean learning is! Click on the exhibit name to explore this digital exhibit focusing on the formation and legacy of the SEABEES! Items utilized in this exhibit are on short-term loan or slated for permanent donation to NC Maritime Museum at Southport. In lieu of exhibiting these artifacts in the temporary exhibit space in the entryway, enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

Many thanks to U.S. Seabee Museum, part of Naval History and Heritage Command, as well as Seabee Veterans Association Island X5 for images, information, and support.

*Please note: Viewing may not be ideal on a tablet or phone


Now open

a musuem exhibit that includes civil war artifacts behind glass cases

War Comes to the Lower Cape Fear
Opened Feb. 3, 2022

As one of the ports ordered to be blockaded by President Abraham Lincoln, Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear had a front-row seat to the American Civil War. Blockade running and freedom seekers sneaking out to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron made the waterways a busy and dangerous place.

Engulfed in Flames: SS John D. Gill, 1942
Opened March 4, 2022

Lower Cape Fear residents once again got a front-row seat to war, this time World War II. With unrestricted submarine warfare granted by Hitler, ships along the coast of North Carolina faced numerous and frequent German U-Boat attacks. These attacks, like that of the sinking of SS John D Gill on March 11, 1942, could often be seen from the shore.

“The Sea Shall Not Have Them”
Opened May 25, 2019
From the formation of the US Revenue Cutter Service, to its merging with the US Life-Saving Service, to the absorption of the US Lighthouse Service, all pieces of the United States Coast Guard can be seen from the museum. Learn how a breeches buoy worked or how lighthouses were demolished. This one-of-a-kind exhibit sheds light on the only branch of the military that is not in the Department of Defense.

“Deadly Dozen”
Opened October 12, 2019
North Carolina sits towards the northern edge of hurricane alley, a part of the globe susceptible to hurricanes that stretches from the West Coast of Africa to Central America up the East Coast of North America. Cape Fear has seen our share of devastating and deadly hurricanes. From Hurricane Hazel in 1954 to Hurricane Florence in 2018, join us in learning how to prepare for these storms, live through them and recover in their wake.