The Heritage Museum in Virginia Beach is an interesting stop, especially for visitors who either want to know more about wildfowl or are already involved in the sport of duck hunting. While the museum itself is not large, it makes up for its size by being packed with unique artifacts and carvings. Launched in early 1992 by a group of 16 wildfowl loving community members, the museum was born out of an interest to preserve and maintain the heritage of wildfowl and the sport of hunting them.
Run by an involved board of directors that are voted into the positions, the museum is a combination effort by the Virginia Beach historical society, the city itself and the museum.
The museum features a wide variety of exhibits that focus on different artwork of wildfowl, artifacts, and carvings.
The biggest draw is the volunteer carvers, who are located at the museum and do live carving for visitors when the museum is open. Each carver has their own unique carving style that displays the art of wildfowl carving. The history of decoy carving dates back to the original settling of the country and was a tactic that Native Americans were using long before American settlers arrived. The purpose of the decoy is to trick waterfowl into feeling safe so that they can be hunted with ease. The roots of decoy carving for profit can be traced back to the early 1800s.
There are also many historic and unique wildfowl related artifacts, like canvasback pairs (a canvasback is a species of diving ducks, the largest of its type found in the United States) and award-winning decoys (like the Ruddy duck specimen that won first place at the Decoy Festival in Core Sound). There are also bird and duck kites flying outside the museum and sculptures found throughout the premises in a variety of mediums. Make sure to check out the many decoys - Greater Scaup, Preening Pintail, and Shoveler Drake Low Head round out a unique and diverse collection.
On the walls of the museum are many paintings (using all different paint mediums) as well as maps, news articles and other related wildfowl information. Make sure to check each of them out as they all add to the visitor’s understanding of wildfowl and wildfowl hunting as both an art and a sport, with special concern to the environmental impact of hunting these birds.
The museum itself is also one of the great attractions, especially when it is decorated for the holiday season. The cottage that the museum is located in is historic, built over 100 years ago, and is currently listed on the Virginia historic registry. In fact, the cottage (also known as the de Witt cottage) is currently the oldest structure (circa 1895) in the area. Just outside the cottage and museum grounds is the first public library in Virginia Beach (which was established in 1930). It was relocated to museum grounds in the early 2000s and is maintained by the museum staff.
The museum offers many special events throughout the year, all accessible and frequently updated on the museum website. There is a yearly barbeque for both the general public and the volunteer carvers to sit outside on museum premises, enjoy the food and the company. Come get to know the museum staff and the carvers on a personal level while getting to see the museum in a less official and more fun capacity. This event is normally hosted in the fall, usually in October.
There are also monthly meetings of the board of directors that the public can sit in on, which comes with a social hour for the board and guests to learn more about what it takes to run the museum. Be aware that, after that, the public is asked to leave so that the board can meet privately. Dine Outs are also offered a few times a month to support the museum, with a portion of the proceeds going back into the museum and its daily operations. These are updated on the museum website for interested parties.
The gift shop at the wildfowl museum offers a unique variety of souvenirs for purchase while visiting. Decoys, bird carvings, nightlights, leather purses, walking sticks, and bird kites make for a memorable end to any visit to the premises, with proceeds going back into supporting the museum and its operations.
Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, 1113 Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach, VA, Phone: 757-437-8432
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