Aurora Fossil Museum nets $50,000 in state funds

Published 6:10 pm Friday, November 2, 2018

AURORA — An additional $50,000 from the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources will help the Aurora Fossil Museum advance its mission of education and paleontological research in the coming year.

During the state budget process, legislators can submit proposals for funds to be allocated for certain projects and causes within their districts. As sitting N.C. Senator Bill Cook prepares for retirement next month after four terms in the General Assembly, the museum is among the projects he went to bat for this budget year.

“This is one of the best places for tourism and education combined in North Carolina,” Cook said of the museum. “Folks come here from all over the world and all over the state. It’s really a wonderful facility and an opportunity for young people, particularly, to learn.”

For Aurora Fossil Museum Director Cynthia Crane, the additional funds represent an opportunity to expand what the facility is already doing. Earmarked for updates to the museum’s buildings, displays and grounds, the money will have a number of impacts, from enhancing visitors’ experiences to creating a new research space for professional paleontologists.

“This is just thrilling,” Crane said. “It’s really appreciated and greatly needed. Some of it is going to help renovate and fix the upstairs of the building. I have specimen cabinets that used to be at the Smithsonian … This will help fix the upstairs so that we can move those cabinets upstairs and start a collection that researchers can come and work with, tying Aurora into the world research community.”

From families and amateurs to professional scientists, the additional funds will only serve to bring more attention to the museum. In May, the museum hosted the annual conference of the Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology, bringing 45 leading scientists from nine states to Aurora. The same weekend, the museum was at the center of the 25th Annual Aurora Fossil Festival.

While the facility is a destination for fossil enthusiasts from around the world, it also serves as a hub of the local community in Aurora. In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, the museum stepped into a community service role, hosting Federal Emergency Management Agency and Red Cross personnel.

“We’re a museum, but we’re a community anchor,” Crane said. “It’s an interesting role that I play, not only as a paleontologist and a museum director, but as a community advocate for the people in this area.”

“This museum is really a big part of the community,” Cook added. “I can’t imagine Aurora without this museum. It’s part and parcel of the whole community.”

Since the beginning of 2018, more than 18,000 visitors have passed through the museum’s doors. Hailing from all 50 states and multiple foreign countries, the museum is responsible for putting Aurora and Beaufort County on the map on a national and international scale. As of Friday, the facility was only 1,276 people shy of achieving 20,000 visitors for the year, a goal Crane sees as achievable.

The Aurora Fossil Museum is located at 400 Main St. in Aurora. Operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, or to plan a visit, visit or call 252-322-4238.