“Workboats of Core Sound” Highlights Maritime History at the N.C. Transportation Museum
Release date: 8/1/2011
SPENCER – The N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer opened a new offering in June in the Wagons, Wheels & Wings exhibit space, adding a bit of water to the wagons and wheels on display.
“Workboats of Core Sound” features the photography of Lawrence Earley, as he has documented the working lives of the fishermen and boat builders of Core Sound, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
“It’s refreshing to be able to highlight a mode of transportation that we are seldom able to present,” said Exhibits Coordinator Bob Hopkins. “And it gives the gallery an entirely new, crisp look, something new for our regular visitors to see.”
The hand-built, wooden workboats of Core Sound were once an essential component of the livelihood of Down East fishing communities. The creation of these fishing vessels, specifically engineered for the area’s shallow depths, has transcended a simple trade skill to become a folk art itself.
But many of those boats are now idle, with fewer in use and fewer still created each year. New materials and the decline of the fishing industry are both to blame. Lawrence Earley saw this decline, and in 2004, set about documenting this disappearing art.
“Workboats of Core Sound” features 50 black and white photographs with extended captions relating the stories behind the images. Hopkins said, “The photography drew me to this exhibit. The images truly tell the story of this region’s disappearing maritime heritage.” The exhibit also features the Leckler Lewis skiff, a full size Core Sound boat that roamed those waters through the 1970’s, on loan from the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center on Harker’s Island. The skiff is accompanied by models of two other Core Sound vessels, the “Capt. Jim” and the “Clarice,” both made by Jimmy Amspacher of Marshallberg.
“Workboats of Core Sound” documents not only the final product of these Down East boatbuilders, but also the methods by which these watercraft were created. One of the most famous of these early twentieth century boatbuilders, Ambrose Fulcher, worked with just a saw, hammer, hatchet, and what boatbuilders call “the rack of the eye.” Fulcher worked with no plans or drawings, making each boat a unique creation.
“This exhibit conveys how workboats are unique expressions of the region’s boatbuilders and traditions,” says Earley. “Each boat carries multiple stories about the people, history and culture of fishing communities in Down East North Carolina.”
The N.C. Transportation Museum brings those stories to the Piedmont region of the Tarheel State. The exhibit will remain a part of Wagon’s, Wheels & Wings at the N.C. Transportation Museum through, at least, December, 2011.
“Workboats of Core Sound” was produced in collaboration with the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center and was funded by the N.C. Arts Council, the N.C. Humanities Council and the Caroliniana Society. The exhibit appeared previously at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center on Harker’s Island, the N.C. History Museum in Raleigh, and at the Burke Arts Council in Morganton.
Earley is a writer-photographer from Raleigh who worked for 20 years with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, where he served as editor of Wildlife in North Carolina and directed the Wildlife Commission’s educational publications unit. He is the author of Looking for Longleaf: The Fall and Rise of an American Forest (UNC Press, 2004). A photographer for more than 35 years, his images have been exhibited widely in North Carolina.
The N.C. Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility is located just five minutes off I-85 at Exit 79 in Spencer, N.C., and about an hour from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem. The museum is part of the Division of Historic Sites and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Visit www.nctrans.org for more information. For information on the Department of Cultural Resources, call (919) 807-7385 or visit www.ncculture.com.
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Division of State Historic Sites, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources