School may be out but learning doesn't need to stop.
Over the summer, Onslow County Museum will be participating in Blue Star Museums: a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to those currently serving in the United States Military and up to five family members.
According to Museum Director Lisa Whitman-Grice, the OCM became part of the initiative when she became aware of it over five years ago.
“We’re home to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune,” Whitman-Grice said. “And we know important that is and how important it is to be part of that Blue Star program which really does celebrate not only the active duty member but also their families.”
Although the Blue Star Museum initiative runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the OCM was granted permission by the Onslow Board of Commissioners to extend the program until Veterans Day every year.
“It runs between those two commemorative days that really honor our service members,” Whitman-Grice said.
The museum was established in 1976. Its main room is host to a 38 foot long, 800 year old canoe. According to Whitman-Grice, people have been hunting and gathering in the area for over 10,000 years. The exhibits showcase the history of the county from the prehistoric era to the present. It explores how the county’s cultural history is connected to its natural history.
There is also a changing gallery that over the summertime is home to a children’s discovery gallery. This summer, the theme is “Exploring the Deep Blue Sea.” The museum opened the exhibit on June 11, deep sea explorer and marine conservation pioneer Jacques Cousteau's birthday. The summer gallery features a wooden yellow submarine structure that children can play in.
Museum-goer Sharon Anderson of Jacksonville said that the submarine is her kids’ favorite exhibit.
“It’s got a real TV in there so they can pretend that they’re driving,” Anderson said. She added that they enjoyed the other exhibits as well. “They like looking at it and pushing the buttons to hear the stories.”
According to Whitman-Grice, last year in the period between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Blue Star families accounted for nine percent of their visitation.
Active duty members do not need to be present for their family members to be allowed in for free. And those who are not affiliated with the military are still encouraged to check out the exhibits. Admission to the museum is $2.14 for adults, $1.07 for children 3 to 18 and free for those 3 and under.