Continuing the Story
As the new executive director of Ocean Isle Museum Foundation, Jim Hoffman hopes to find new ways to engage visitors at Museum of Coastal Carolina and Ingram Planetarium.
Why does Jim Hoffman want to be executive director of the Ocean Isle Museum Foundation, Inc.?
“Why would I NOT want this job?” he asks.
Hoffman’s amiable manner indicates he’s comfortable with his new surroundings and refers to the exhibits and programs at the Museum of Coastal Carolina in Ocean Isle Beach and Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach with knowledge of their functions. He also understands Draw Alive! and the augmented reality sandbox are popular interactive exhibits at the museum, while the ViewSpace, Nano Technology and the Hurricane Simulator fascinate visitors at the planetarium.
“This job is right for me because we are telling a story, the story Stuart Ingram began,” Hoffman says.
Ingram founded Museum of Coastal Carolina and Ingram Planetarium, and Hoffman praises him for his vision to preserve what the Carolina coast offers.
“I want to tell that story to children and adults,” Hoffman says. “Through my entire career I’ve been a storyteller.” His plans at the museum and planetarium are to “stay true to the initial story,” he says, and to add more interactive exhibits and to keep abreast with advancing technology.
Hoffman, the youngest of six children, earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and upon graduation returned to his native Gastonia to be a reporter for the Gaston Gazette.
“I dreamed of being Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein,” he says. “I can remember reading All the President’s Men. I wanted to be an investigative journalist and change the world.”
To achieve that goal Hoffman understood he would have to write for a high-profile newspaper or move to a big city. After much consideration, he decided that goal was not in the best interests of his wife and children. Instead, he took the job of director of marketing and public relations at Discovery Place, the acclaimed museum in Charlotte. At the same time, he wanted to continue writing so he enrolled in a feature writing course at UNC-Charlotte. His teacher was noted author Sara Pitzer.
Hoffman’s assignments impressed Pitzer so much she asked him to write a travel book she had considered writing. He readily accepted and wrote Family Adventures in North Carolina, published in 1996 and reissued in 2001 as Fun with the Family in North Carolina.
“That started a 25-year association with the publisher,” he says. Four more travel books followed. “It allowed my family to travel, and we’d go to different places in North Carolina and South Carolina.” The most challenging project he undertook, he says, was writing the book about day trips in the Carolinas. He was expected to visit attractions in North Caroline and South Carolina and determine which ones are the best to see and what activities to include a day trip.
After 10 years, Hoffman left his position at Discovery Place and became chief operating officer at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, where he later was named interim executive director. With COVID-19 and its aftermath, Hoffman says he was having difficulty hiring people at the garden, and while surfing the internet he spotted the job opening in Ocean Isle Beach. He was well aware of the museum and planetarium through his work at Discovery Place and had brought his family to visit them when they came to Brunswick County.
One thing he says he didn’t realize was how the Brunswick County population has expanded.
“That presents a tremendous amount of opportunity,” he says. “The role of museums is changing. We have to look for other ways to engage various audiences and figure out why people come to the museum [and planetarium].”
When he and his wife, Bonnie, get settled in Ocean Isle Beach, they will become involved with activities in the community, he says. It’s possible Bonnie will continue her business of buying and selling vintiques, that is, vintage and antique articles. The couple look forward to having their blended family of five children and their 11-year-old grandchild visit and continue to expand their knowledge of Brunswick County. Part of the appeal in this part of North Carolina, Hoffman says, is to explore more historical attractions.
Since he recently revised Off the Beaten Path and has new responsibilities as executive director at Museum of Coastal Carolina and Ingram Planetarium, a writing project is not in his near future. Will his books be available in the gift shop? “I will leave that up to Karen, our store manager,” he says and laughs. “I would not insist she do that. I would let her use her judgment.”
For now, his focus is on his new job. “I am very excited about being here,” he says.
Want to go?
Museum of Coastal Carolina
21 E. Second Street, Ocean Isle Beach
10 am to 3 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday
7625 High Market Street, Sunset Beach
10:30 am Thursday, Friday and Saturday (flexible closing time)
For more information, admission fees and special events, visit museumplanetarium.org.