In the spring of 1976 then Commissioner of Agriculture Graham appointed an Advisory Board to help in planning the future of the museum. Made up of volunteers from a broad spectrum of disciplines and occupation, the Advisory Board functioned solely in an advisory capacity, with the exception of sponsoring a monthly lecture series.
In 1977, the Advisory Board, with the enthusiastic support of the museum staff, established The Friends of the Museum, North Carolina Maritime Museum, Inc. (The Friends) a legally incorporated non-profit group whose purpose was to support the museum in areas where the state could not. The Friends organization was structured to work closely with the museum director and staff to determine how to best support the museum's mission. Because The Friends provided a degree of flexibility to operate programs and negotiate details that would otherwise be impossible through state government channels, its relationship with the museum has been invaluable to the facility's growth, as well as its day to day operations.
Members of the local community have always been considered one of the museum's most valuable assets and The Friends made the community aware of the possibilities for museum support that could be achieved. The Friends unfailing support and unflagging allegiance remains an integral and indispensable part of the museum's life.
Some of the most obvious contributions of The Friends over the years include: the publication of the museum newsletter, starting what would be a long string of Friends supported museum programming, being instrumental in the successful negotiations for the donation of the property on which the museum and Watercraft Center sit, offering boaters loaner vehicles to run errands, paying for the auditorium, library fireplace, bookcases and furnishings, raising $50,000 for the purchase of Harborside (a three-story building across from the museum), sponsoring the Cape Lookout Studies Program, purchasing an off-site carpentry shop and a boat storage building, securing a grant to fund the "USS Monitor" traveling exhibit, starting the museum’s Junior Sailing Program, and mounting a campaign to purchase the ideal Gallants Channel waterfront property.
Most recently The Friends raised over $120,000 to construct the new Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge exhibit, a 1,000 square foot space displaying hundreds of newly conserved artifacts.