The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

September 21, 2012

Oakboro shines light on lighthouse collectors

By Ian Faulkner for the SNAP

Friday, September 21, 2012 — The Oakboro Regional Museum of History introduced a bright new exhibit within their rotational display of lighthouses. “Pharology, the study of lighthouses,” proclaims a sign upon entering the tower bedecked room.  

“Perhaps the most famous lighthouse in history is the lighthouse of Alexandria, built on the island of Pharos in Hellenistic Egypt,” informs a posting pasted on the wall. It goes on to tell that the term “Pharos” is still used as the noun for “lighthouse” in many languages today.

The room is stocked to the brim with any form of lighthouse imaginable. One display case features lighthouse replicas from North Carolina, ranging from the Cape Hatteras lighthouse to the Bald Head Island lighthouse. Another case presents craft items with the lighthouse theme. These items include a lighthouse shaped pen, a snow globe, painted bottles, Christmas ornaments and a glass wind chime.

Information on N.C. and U.S. lighthouses is generously spaced throughout the display, detailing the history of these towers: Bodie Island lighthouse received its name from the bodies that used to wash ashore from shipwrecks. Furthermore, the museum even has a TV airing “The North Carolina Lighthouse Tour.”

Handmade models of NC lighthouses can be viewed in the front window of the museum. The models are on loan courtesy of Oakboro Elementary School.

Jane Barnhardt organized and installed the display.  Barnhardt is one of the founding directors of the museum, along with Robert P. Barbee and Claudette B. Love back in 1999.  

“Lighthouses are an interest of many people. This exhibit idea started with a N.C. sea shell display that I organized at the Oakboro Library,” Barnhardt said.

“Lighthouses are an important part of North Carolina's history. Over 2,000 ships have been lost off of the coast of North Carolina.

“One hundred, 200 years ago, freight ships were the only means of transporting goods across large distances. The lighthouses helped these ships sail to safety. At Wilmington, there is a series of lighthouses that guided ships into the channels.”

According to Barnhardt, North Carolina is home to one of the last two lighthouses built in America, the Oak Island lighthouse (1958).

As modern methods of navigation became more prevalent, the use of lighthouses began to wane.  

The Oakboro Regional Museum of History offers several permanent displays, as well. Termed “Windows into the Past” these displays are Ancient Life of the Rocky River, People of the Region, Churches and Schools, Genealogy and Rural Life, just to name a few.

The Oakboro Regional Museum of History only features history from the Old Oakboro School District and surrounding region.

The museum maintains four different rotating exhibits throughout the year. The lighthouses will be on display through October.

The exhibit opened on Aug. 25 in time for the monthly Oakboro Cruise-In. Barnhardt reported that about 50 people were in attendance at the museum.

Barnhardt wishes to thank Ricky and Shirley Edwards, Chris Gilbert, Evelyn Hatley and Oakboro Elementary for loaning their lighthouse collections to the museum.

Admission to the museum is free, however, donations are always welcome.

The museum is open 2-4 p.m. Sunday and Monday and 10 a.m.-noon Thursday.