Located in St. Michaels, Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is an 18-acre museum displaying artifacts related to the history of the Chesapeake Bay, including the world’s largest collection of the region’s boats and fishing vessels. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is located along the Navy Point dock area of St. Michaels, a former hub for the area’s seafood packing industry.
In 1965, the Historical Society of Talbot County obtained ownership of three of the Point’s waterfront buildings and opened a museum of Chesapeake Bay artifacts. Throughout the following decade, the museum acquired several historic watercraft, including the Edna E. Lockwood, now a National Historic Landmark, along with the former Coulbourne and Jewett crab packing facility. In 1965, the Society rescued the historic Hooper Strait Lighthouse, set for demolition by the United States government, and relocated it to the Navy Point complex. The museum was incorporated as a private nonprofit museum in 1968, and by the beginning of the following decade, had expanded its facilities to encompass the entirety of Navy Point’s former industrial district. In 1978, the museum was officially accredited by the American Association of Museums. Subsequent expansions and renovations have stretched to include facilities in the adjacent Fogg’s Cove area.
Today, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum campus spans 18 acres across the Navy Point and Fogg’s Cove areas, including 35 historic, exhibition, and administrative buildings. 10 of the museum’s buildings are open to the public as exhibit areas, offering interactive exhibits that detail the area’s natural, social, and economic history, with a focus on maritime technologies and industries. As the only museum solely devoted to the history of the Chesapeake Bay area, the museum holds the largest collection of Bay area historic watercraft, preserving more than 100 ships and ship models, along with a variety of artworks and artifacts related to maritime industries on the Bay.
Visitors may explore a number of preserved historic structures, including the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, relocated 60 miles north of its original location near Tangier Sound. The screwpile-style lighthouse was the second lighthouse built on the Strait, following the destruction of the area’s original lighthouse structure by an ice storm in 1877. Exhibits within the lighthouse detail lighthouse keeping practices of the 19th century, allowing visitors to climb into the structure’s sea hatch and observe the Bay from its lookout. Other historic structures within the museum campus include the Tolchester Beach Bandstand, formerly located within Kent County’s resort and amusement area, the original Knapps Narrows Drawbridge, relocated from Tilghman Island, and the Point Lookout Tower, the companion structure of a former lighthouse located at the junction of the Bay and the Potomac River.
A number of permanent exhibit areas chronicle the Bay’s natural and social history, including the Bay History exhibit, which details the area’s indigenous history through its involvement in the American Civil War.At Play on the Bay, the Museum’s largest exhibit area, recounts the Bay’s 20th-century transition from an industrial hub to a recreational tourist-driven area. Visitors may try their hand at fishing industry activities in the Oystering on the Chesapeake, which offers onboard experiences on the historic E.C. Collier skipjack, and Waterman’s Wharf, located within a recreated crabber’s shanty. A Maryland Crab Meat Company exhibit showcases three crabbing skiffs and other equipment used by Crisfield’s Maryland Crabmeat Company, and a Waterfowling exhibit details the area’s history of bird migration and hunting practices.
The museum’s Floating Fleet exhibit showcases a collection of docked water vessels, including the historic Edna E. Lockwood, the 1912 Delaware river tug, and a collection of racing log canoes, including the Edmee S., which is still raced by museum staff during area summertime competitions. Activities and exhibits for young visitors are offered aboard the 1909 Old Point dredgeboat, and summer weekend tours are hosted aboard the museum’s replica buyboat, Mister Jim. A Working Boatyard exhibit serves as a restoration and educational program area, allowing visitors to help construct a skiff boat as part of the museum’s Apprentice for a Day program.
An Heirloom Garden is maintained by museum volunteers, featuring medicinal and culinary herbs and plants native to the area from indigenous times through the 19th century. The museum also maintains the Navy Point shoreline as a Living Shoreline project, helping to prevent erosion and biodiversity loss through natural plantings and landscaping. More than 10,000 volumes may be accessed within the Howard Chappelle Research Library, available by appointment to students and researchers.
Ongoing Programs and Education
In addition to field trip opportunities for elementary, secondary, and college students, the museum offers a Lighthouse Overnight program, an annual Sea Squirts Summer Camp, and a Rising Tide after-school boatbuilding program for area youth. Workshops and classes for all ages are held at the museum’s Working Boatyard, including woodworking, metal casting, and tool sharpening courses. Adult education courses are offered through the museum’s Academy for Lifelong Learning, and periodic public lectures are presented by members of the museum’s Speakers Bureau. Annual public special events include a Maritime Model Expo, a Charity Boat Auction, and an Annual Antique and Classic Boat Festival over Father’s Day Weekend.
213 North Talbot Street, St Michaels, MD 21663, Phone: 410-745-2916
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