St. Michaels Must Do’s: Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

There is no better way to experience the history of the Chesapeake Bay than by taking a short stroll over to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum; you can step back in time to the 17th century, when life was driven by the resources local waters provided. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum preserves and explores the history, environment, and culture of the entire Chesapeake Bay region. Their campus includes twelve exhibition buildings, alternating special exhibits, and a floating fleet of historic boats.

The Chesapeake Bay is home to one of the world’s greatest bird migrations. The Waterfowl exhibit walks you through the distinct cultures of market gunners, outlaws, hunters, and birdwatchers. This exhibit also includes collections of working decoys from the Mid-Atlantic region resembling various kinds of geese, duck, and shorebirds.

Oyster fishery shaped the culture and landscape of the Chesapeake Bay. The Museum features an interactive exhibit where you can step aboard an oyster harvesting skipjack, the E.C. Collier, to listen in on “life on deck” as the captain shouts out orders and the crew talk about him behind his back. Examine the harvesting equipment and innovations that caused turmoil between traditional hand tongs and the new style of dredging.

The Chesapeake Bay was a primary source of travel and trade, even through the night. Lighthouse keepers had an important responsibility to keep shallow channels safely marked and monitored. The Museum is now home to the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse. This hands-on exhibit allows you to explore the lighthouse and learn what life was like for its heroic keepers.

Take a walk along the docks to admire the historic vessels the Museum maintains, representing a variety of vessels that were developed and used on the Chesapeake Bay. Some are the only remaining survivor of their type. The Museum is also a working shipyard with a Shipwright Apprentices Program. You can watch as they work; right now they are building the new Maryland Dove, a reproduction of the 17th century trading ship. When visiting St. Michaels, the Museum is a must-do; it has something for everyone, including demonstrations, tours, scenic boat rides, and hand-on educational programs. The Museum also hosts annual festivals, such as the Antique & Classic Boat Festival, Watermen’s Appreciation Day, Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, Oyster Fest, and the Eastern Shore Sea Glass & Coastal Arts Festival.

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