The question kept coming up,

“What’s going to be in this area?”

The answer was always the same;

People. 

This time last year we were laying out plans for the new exhibits while contractors were hard at work on the building renovations. It was a huge task, with more than a dozen new exhibit areas being designed. We did all of the design work in-house, once again, proving how much a small museum can truly achieve with limited resources. With a rich historic archive and many artifacts, the temptation was great, indeed, to fill the galleries with large glass covered cases at every turn. We decided on a different path. Instead of filling the place with stuff, we would fill it with people. People from Hampton Roads, people from around the US, people from all over the world.

Through every step of the process we focused on one main goal; opening the usable space to accommodate a larger flow of people. The beautiful exhibits had to also create more inviting spaces to gather as a community. I’m very proud of the extensive historic research, of the wonderful graphic designs, of the crafted installations. I take the greatest pride, however, in creating those very special square feet of precious open space.

That space is for you. For us. For Community.

Our first Summer and Fall in the new galleries proved the idea a success. It’s been a joy to see people taking the time to truly relax inside the museum and reconnect to each other. Perhaps I should say, inside and outside, for one of the biggest steps we took in designing the main exhibit area was to open the massive gallery doors. These are the historic doors of the then active rescue station’s boat room. Crew members would open the doors in order to haul the rescue boats and equipment to the beach. Opening the doors today transforms an already bright and inviting 1000 square feet of gallery into an indoor/outdoor oasis. Visitors this first year have already embraced what is now one of the most special community spaces in all of Hampton Roads.

This year we want to offer the space for much more than parties. We’ll be reaching out to community organizations and clubs, offering to share the space and beautiful oceanfront views for gatherings, meetings, and events. It’s another important step in the institution evolving as more than a museum.

More than a museum; that’s the best way to summarize what we are all about. Yes, you will see history. Yes, you will learn a great deal about our roots, our coastal culture, our way of life. Most importantly, you will see each other.

A commitment to community isn’t so complicated. Let us gather. Let us talk and laugh and remind ourselves why we love this place we call home so very much. Let’s do this often.

William Hazel