The hulls of 5 shrimp trawlers docked in the Southport Yacht Basin in the early 1950s

Museum seeking artifacts related to area’s commercial fishing history

SOUTHPORT — The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport is designing a new exhibit that showcases the rich history of commercial fishing in the Cape Fear region. But to help tell the full story, museum staff is seeking the community’s help.

“We’re looking for anything related to the commercial fishing business,” N.C. Maritime Museums’ Design Curator Rebecca Edwards said. “Specifically, we’d like items related to any of the shrimp or fish houses that were down on the water.”

Edwards said she’s seeking objects like commercial fishing gear, cannery tins and tokens, boating equipment and other historical items related to commercial fishing in Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender and lower Onslow counties. She added they’re also interested in items like pictures, letters and other documents that add historical context.

“We would love the opportunity to display a wide variety of artifacts that give the visitors insight and appreciation for the Cape Fear fishing communities,” Edwards said.

Edwards cautions that items should not be brought directly to the museum since the staff there is not set up to accept artifacts. Instead, the acquisition process is a structured one that goes through the collections staff, who are based out of the museum’s sister site in Beaufort.

To donate an object or documents, contact Collections Manager Tessa Johnstone or the Southport Maritime Museum Director John Moseley with an image of the object and/or a brief description. They will then work with Edwards to determine which items would work best in the exhibit based on when it was used, what it illustrates, if there is already a similar item in the collection and other criteria. They’ll then schedule an appointment to travel to the potential donor to see the item in person.

Edwards said they’re looking for objects used during the 18th, 19th, and late 20th centuries in shad, mullet, menhaden, shrimp, clam and oyster fisheries, both farm-raised and locally harvested. She is hoping to also see something related to one specific fishery.

“We don’t have anything for the sturgeon fishery, not even pictures, only a couple of news articles,” Edwards said, noting that’s partially attributable to the fishery’s brief period in operation.

Edwards said the goal is to create a comprehensive display that honors the commercial fishing community, which played a vital role in the region’s history.

“That was Southport’s main economy back then,” she said, “and I want to pay homage to them.”

For more information, contact Edwards at or (252) 504-7745.

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