State Agency Staff Rescue Flood-Damaged Artifacts in Pembroke and Harkers Island


The recent heavy rains from Hurricane Florence caused the roofs of two North Carolina museums to fail, threatening two very different but equally important collections of historical artifacts. 

The Core Sound Waterfowl Museum in Harkers Island and the Indian Education Program Museum in Pembroke both experienced significant damage from the storm, leading to water damage and mold that has impacted the collections of both facilities. 

Enter the Cultural Resources Emergency Response Team, or CREST. The team of employees from the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, along with regional partners, is working with both museums to clean and restore hundreds of artifacts, find temporary offsite storage for the Core Sound Museum’s collection, and assist in preparing some of the Indian Education Program Museum’s printed materials for digitization.

“It’s not necessarily the first thing people think of in a disaster, but our cultural and historical treasures are also at risk following events such as floods or hurricanes,” said Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi H. Hamilton. “This amazing team is trained to recover and restore artifacts of every kind after almost any type of disaster. I am so very proud of the vitally important work that they do in protecting our state’s heritage.” 

In Pembroke, CREST welcomed the assistance of staff from the Gaston County Museum. In Harkers Island, staff from the Maritime Museum assisted CREST, along with a team of 10 volunteers. 

The CREST team is able to deploy members across the state after a disaster to assist with repair and restoration at libraries, museums and historic sites. CREST members arrive with special supplies to triage, clean and repair artifacts, and have had specialized recovery training that includes soot removal, photograph salvage, freezing techniques, and textile cleaning for temporary or long-term conservation and storage. They are one of only five such teams in the country. 

Lori Foley, administrator of FEMA’s Heritage Emergency National Task Force, recently praised North Carolina’s team: “CREST is one of only five state-based cultural heritage emergency networks, but is the only one with personnel trained and able to assist cultural institutions affected by disasters…With amazing organization and committed (and passionate!) conservation and regional support … CREST are completing multiple large salvage/triage projects with many moving parts. Their efforts in response will serve as a model for other state-based teams.”

CREST also offers training in artifact recovery to interested groups. To connect with CREST, please contact Adrienne Berney at 919-807-7418 or

Photos from CREST’s work in Pembroke can be found on Dropbox. 

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