Museum ready for visitors

Published 12:42 am Thursday, October 6, 2011

Shoppers browse at the Aurora Fossil Museum gift shop, which has assumed regular business hours and repaired flood damage from Hurricane Irene. (WDN Photo/Kevin Scott Cutler)

AURORA — While areas of Beaufort County continue to recover from Hurricane Irene, one local tourist attraction is hoping to get the word out that it is ready and willing to welcome visitors.

The Aurora Fossil Museum is back up and running, said Andrea Stilley, its director.

“The museum was closed for an entire week, including the last busy weekend of the year, which is Labor Day,” Stilley said.

Even though the main building of the museum complex reopened in early September, it took longer for museum staff to repair and reopen the learning center and its annex. Those buildings were flooded with up to 8 inches of tidal-flooding waters, and while no displays were lost or damaged, carpets had to be replaced and repainting performed in some sections.

As recovery efforts moved ahead, the museum began to see an increase in the number of visitors from other states. The learning center and its annex have since reopened, offering visitors an opportunity to tour the entire facility, Stilley noted.

In 2010, the museum welcomed visitors from 49 of the 50 states, with North Dakota being the sole exception.

Stilley said the museum owes a debt of gratitude to PotashCorp Aurora for its help in preparing the museum to face Irene’s wrath.

“They provided labor and materials, including sand bags and lumber, to prepare for the storm,” Stilley said. “Although the museum is a separate, nonprofit (facility), and it is not owned by Potash, they do support us in a lot of ways.”

Volunteers also offered their time and energy in assisting museum staff after the storm.

“They came and completely redid the park, cleaning up and removing debris and making it safe for visitors,” Stilley said.

The museum will observe National Fossil Day on Wednesday with a presentation by Michael Morris, a museum staff member and East Carolina University graduate with a degree in anthropology. The event, which begins at 11 a.m., is free and open to the public.

Another museum project is a campaign to draw enough interest to fund a special N.C. license plate endorsing the museum.

The Aurora Fossil Museum opened in 1978 and became a nonprofit corporation in 1999. Admission is free, and the museum is currently open Mondays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, call 252-322-4238 or visit