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Visiting the Life Saving Station Museum


Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum gift shop
Maria Rosole signs in to the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum last week. She was visiting from Ecuador.


Time is of the essence

Richard Mance was fairly distracted as I questioned, Gabriel and Cristina Correa and Maria Eugenia Rosole who had come in from Ecuador to visit. The clock was ticking and there still was too much left for them to see, but they hadn’t even left the gift shop/reception area of the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum. I was distracted at first by their general presence, a story I’ll share here later, but also by their gift.

It was a small jar of titanium sand from Mompiche Beach in Ecuador. The beach, they said, is near titanium mines and, as a result, has black, metal sand.

“You definitely have to wear your flip-flops all the time,” said Cristina “It’s really hot.”

Metal tends to be if you leave it in the sun for several decades.

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Cristina knew to bring sand because she’d been to the Ocean City Lifesaving Museum earlier this summer. The moment she saw the sand collection, she knew she wanted to add some from her home beach.

The sand collection at the Ocean City Lifesaving Museum is more than two decades old. It was started by an SU intern, who wrote to destinations all over the world asking for a sand donation. By the end of that first summer, the museum had 72 vials of sand from around the world. Today, the samples are without number or geographic specificity. Curator Sandy Hurley has them rotated in and out to get as many different ones from as many different countries as possible.

There’s much more to say about the sand collection, but the collection isn’t the point of this story, the disposition to have it is.

shark tooth
Richard Mance holds up the shark’s tooth that is one of the scavenger hunt prizes

Something for and from everybody

One week each year (this year it is Oct. 24-Oct. 31) the Ocean City Lifesaving Museum doesn’t charge admission. Frankly, even when it does, it’s $3 for an adult and $1 for a child. The point of the free week isn’t to convince people it is worth the fee, it is to entice people to make the museum their own.

The sand is one of the most obvious ways visitors are encouraged to make a connection with the museum. People enjoy looking through the sands and remarking upon where they’ve been and where they hope to go. Some even have begun sand collection of their own based on the display.

But nostalgia is different for everyone and what the museum does as well as it does anything else is encourage memories. There are pictures of Boardwalk Elvis, found and donated photos from photo booths, and all other manner of Ocean City ephemera and iconography.

The children’s room has interactive displays, as do many of the rooms. But, as with the sand, the children’s room is as much to create a bond between the children, the museum and, by extension, Ocean City as it is to inform and entertain.

Kids can build a working understanding of the beach and sea culture and how it has evolved over the years without knowing that that is what’s going on. Adults can pick up not only trivia, but also a better understanding about the way Ocean City was and how tied to its roots the resort remains.

Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum exerior
Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum

More than free admission to the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum

By offering free admission this week, the museum not only has the opportunity to reach out to new people, it also can remind those who came once that there always is more to see. Just as with switching out the sand, the displays and exhibits are rotated and refocused. New items regularly are added to the collection.

As part of every admission, children and young adults are given a scavenger hunt sheet. If they complete the sheet, they can exchange it for a shark’s tooth (a big one for the big kids, a smaller one for the younger kids).

GUY said that some returning visitors were surprised that the questions and answers were different, but that is a testimony to the museum’s ability to keep things, if not fresh, certainly engaging.

In addition to the free admission, the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum is sponsoring a scavenger hunt for locals that ranges through the entire city. All correct entries are entered in a drawing to win a totebag of museum goodies. For more information and to download the sheet visit www.ocmuseum.org

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