Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was founded in 1965 on Navy Point in St. Michaels, a Talbot County riverfront village on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The Museum's first exhibits were displayed in the Dodson House on what was then a two-acre campus. Today's eighteen-acre waterfront campus includes Navy Point, which was once was the site of a busy complex of seafood packing houses, docks, and workboats.
On permanent display at the campus is the nation's most complete collection of Chesapeake Bay artifacts, visual arts, and indigenous water craft. Interpretive exhibitions and public programs cover the range of Chesapeake Bay maritime history and culture-including Native-American life, Anglo-American settlement, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century trans-Atlantic trade, naval history, the Bay's unique watercraft and boat building traditions, navigation, waterfowling, boating, seafood harvesting, and recreation.
Now a St. Michaels landmark, the Hooper Strait Lighthouse has not always resided in its current location. In 1965 it had been condemned by the United States government and was slated to be demolished. The Museum purchased it from the demolition contractor for $1,000 and through the generosity of the Arundel Corporation, barged it sixty miles north to its new home on Navy Point in 1966.
Don't expect to find passive exhibits here. As one museum visitor put it: I'd like to thank the museum for the inclusion of living people as part of the museum, and not just static displays, as many museums have. If one phrase characterizes the visitors' experience at the museum it is that 'history isn't so far away.' You can look watermen and other local people in the face, talk to them, find out what they are like. You can hear the stories of the of the Chesapeake-stories of communities making a living in the 'water business,' harvesting and packing crabs, oysters, rock fish, and clams from the Bay. You can hear stories of urban residents of Baltimore and Norfolk, on opposite ends of the 180-mile-long Bay, who built and operated the shipyards, and imported and exported the goods, building those cities into world-class ports, linking the region and the nation to global markets. You can hear about vacationers and tourist-those who come to sail and fish and sit and watch the sunsets over the Bay.
Through the Museum's Breene M. Kerr Center for Chesapeake Studies, scholars undertake original research and collect oral histories from individuals closely involved with the Bay's rich maritime heritage. The Center presents the perspectives of history, economics, folklore, archeology, and environmental studies to a broad and diverse regional audience. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is the only museum devoted to interpreting the entire maritime region of the Bay.