Table of Contents
Interview with Katherine Hunt, Planetarium Manager
Submitted By: Neil Pifer
N: How did the Museum of Coastal Carolina and the Ingram Planetarium start?
K: About 45 years ago, the founder of the Museum, Stuart Ingram, was fishing at Ocean Isle Beach when a young boy approached him and asked about his catch that day. The boy showed such a curiosity that Stuart thought it would be a good idea to put up a display of the variety of fish caught in the surf. That was the genesis for the Museum. It took a lot of good people donating a lot of time, money and land but 15 years later, in 1991, the Museum of Coastal Carolina opened. He also had a fascination with space and in 2002 the Ingram Planetarium opened in Sunset Beach. You see, Stuart Ingram was a pilot in WWII and he used the stars as navigation for flying at night. Since 1991, we have been relying on volunteers to provide the help to keep the foundation going in addition to a talented staff.
N: What programs can you offer students and how has that programming changed recently?
K: We offer 2-hour experiences for students at each facility that all align to NGSS and NC/SC science standards. In addition to each facility having hands-on, minds-on labs for students, we also have the ability to give unforgettable experiences to many science or social studies standards in the planetarium, in the museum’s spaces, and even outdoors.
We had a 2-phase renovation that started to upgrade our projection system, the computer systems that operate the theater, we have added programmable cove lights, and expanded our science hall. That work was completed in 2018. We are so excited to partner with the Museum to incorporate our new equipment, facility and staff to offer more high-quality full day experiences covering a number of topics.
Also, we are an active partner with the NC Science Festival, with 5 or 6 events during April, and are a partner with the NISE (National Informal Science Education) Network, recently participating in a webinar in how to incorporate their informal science kits into our student and public experiences. Teachers can find out more here about the NISE network.
N: Speaking of staff, what is the makeup of your faculty and how many visitors do you see per year?
K: We have a talented and unique staff that care for both facilities. I am a graduate of Coastal Carolina University and am currently pursuing my graduate degree by researching the effect of informal experiences on future success in science. Our Education Coordinator, Kim Belfer at the Museum of Coastal Carolina is a marine biologist with a passion for bringing the outdoor environment inside to the students. Our Outreach Education Coordinator, Keith Eades, EdD, is a former superintendent of schools in Avery County and has extensive knowledge of high-quality professional development that we also can run in both facilities. In addition to our teaching staff, we have 9 other support staff and a team of over 200 volunteers who help keep our facility delivering high quality educational experiences to over 27,000 visitors per year not including those served in outreach activities.
N: Finally, you have had some storms hit in your area recently. How has that affected your programming and how can people get in touch with you to plan an experience to the Ingram Planetarium?
K: Preparing for storms is a part of life near the coast and we do it really well because of the volunteers and passionate staff we have. Most people think preparing for the storm is the hardest, but being able to quickly get in after the storm passes, connect all of our systems back up and get them running, and to make sure our visitors never knew there was a storm at all is the biggest task. At the museum, we also have to keep our marine life sustained. We are lucky that, recently, only Hurricane Florence caused any water damage and we are currently still working on repairing the roof from that storm. Routinely, public spaces are some of the last structures to get fixed from a storm.
7625 High Market St, Sunset Beach, NC 28468