Annapolis Maritime Museum
This old Bay has seen a lot of livin'
Oh, this old Bay, the stories it could tell!
A leader in the successful protest against high-rise development at the foot of Eastport in the ‘70s, and one of the Eastport Historic Committee who petitioned the city of Annapolis for the Barge House Museum in the ‘80s, Peg Wallace is a life-long sailor, Co-Founder/ Chairman Emeritus of the Annapolis Maritime Museum and the name of a Chesapeake Bay workboat. Designed for its speed and used to harvest oyster beds and fish for crabs, the Peg Wallace is a 37.6 ft Hooper Island Draketail built in 1925, restored in the 90’s, and donated to the museum in 2001. The boat was named to honor Wallace for her “leadership, vision, and years of dedicated volunteer service” As the boat plies the Bay to special South County events in the Four Rivers Heritage Area, Wallace continues to support the museum in the only way she knows: tirelessly.
Funded in 1987 with grants from the legislature, the city and the county, the concept of a museum attracted dedicated and enthusiastic groups and individuals to promote our maritime history and support the preservation of the Bay. By 2003 the museum expanded its Port of Annapolis location at Horn Point in the 600-sq ft Barge House by adding the two-story, 10,000-sq ft McNasby Oyster Co building, the last oyster-shucking house in the city of Annapolis. Then in September, when the Annapolis shoreline was hit by the surge of hurricane Isabel, AMM experienced destruction and then rejuvenation. As the water receded to reveal a mud-caked mess of littered debris from destroyed piers, shore erosion and uprooted trees, the board and community rallied. With sharpened resolve, they took action to rebuild what would be an even bigger and better museum. During the rebuilding, the work of the AMM continued in off-site locations: lectures at Maryland Hall, concerts at City Dock, and exhibits such as the one on navigation pioneer Capt. Philip Van Horn Weems at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies in Linthicum.
Since late 2003, thanks to corporate gifts and volunteer efforts of friends and neighbors, extensive work has been done on the AMM buildings. The Parole-based, award-winning building and remodeling firm of River Crest took on the restoration of the Barge House pro bono , as a volunteer civic project. Then in 2004, when the Coast Guard relinquished jurisdiction over the Thomas Point Lighthouse, the AMM expanded again, Today the museum campus includes the Barge House, McNasby’s, the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, and the Cap’n Herb Sadler Watermen’s Park. There are also AMM boats. In addition to the Peg Wallace . there is the skipjack Lydia D , both in complimentary slips at the Eastport Yacht Center, one of the many good neighbors of the museum. There is also Miss Lonesome , a 45-foot deadrise workboat, soon to be back in action as a permanent outdoor stage for kids’ tonging.
For over a year, the AMM has functioned in an interim office in the old Chance/ Trumpy Boat yard site at 222 Severn Avenue, with a crew headed by a full-time executive director and three part-timers: an executive assistant, a project coordinator and a volunteer coordinator. Twenty-two serve on the Board of Directors, including officers, board members, and crew. Director Jeff Holland, formerly a museum volunteer, brings a public relations background and a life-long passion for sailing to what he describes as a noble venture. “We are a community activist organization, an educational organization; it’s our job to inspire, to create aspirations among young people by telling them about their maritime history and its heroes, the role models found in their maritime heritage. We have a story to tell about what makes this place so special. . . why people love it, and it has to do with the water.”
Indians called this place Mother of Waters
They named it the Chesapeake
Board Chairman Buck Buchanan and his wife Marsha, an AMM volunteer, chose to retire in Annapolis because their first love is the water. He brings corporate leadership skills and abundant energy to the mission of the AMM. According to Buchanan, “… more than artifacts, it is a living museum with an outreach that appeals to all, regardless of age, class, gender or race; it is not just a warehouse for the collecting of old things; it is youth-oriented and hands-on. It’s all about outreach.” His big, bright smile says it all when telling about kids who react with, ”Wow, Mom, that is neat. I never touched a crab before,” or “I never handled the tongs like my grandfather did.” Buchanan takes pride in the way the museum is designed around interactive exhibits.
Through one exhibit, visitors and school groups can discover the historical importance of the oyster to the ecosystem of the Bay and the lives of the people who lived here. At the restored McNasby building, in cooperation with the US Lighthouse Society/ Chesapeake Chapter, visitors can take a virtual tour of the lighthouse to complement direct physical tours. Another exhibit features the life of Eastport’s Cap’n Herbie Sadler to describe the Chesapeake crab and oyster fisheries and show the evolution of the vessels used by Bay watermen—from bateau to bugeye to skipjack to deadrise skiff. These and other exhibits, such as Oysters on the Half Shell, are designed to encourage and to challenge visitors to participate in Bay stewardship by engaging in one of the many oyster restoration programs or by supporting the work of the AMM in other ways. While continuing to rebuild the campus, work on the boats, redesign interactive exhibits and tours, the museum is involved in education and special events that are the core of their community outreach. The AMM is one of several local organizations united under the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network in publishing An Activity Guide for Teachers. Entitled, Seasons of a Chesapeake Bay Waterman , this Socials Studies guide for 3-5th graders covers the history and environment of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, with interdisciplinary connections to Science, Math, Art, and Language Arts. Activities built around “The Vanishing Act of the Chesapeake Bay Oyster,” “Life Cycle of the Blue Crab,” and “A Waterman’s Equipment” include cooperative problem-solving map studies. After reading Captain Salem Avery , a 19thCentury Oysterman and Buy Boat Captain, students can study the family genealogy and add up the Avery household inventory from 1888.
In another school program, in partnership with Annapolis Middle School PTSA, the museum campus is a research facility for students to incorporate the stories they learn into the poetry and plays they write. Student manuscripts will become part of an anthology for the school library and performed during the school year. Through such programs, the museum brings children to an appreciation for the work of their ancestors and a resolve to preserve the Bay and teach maritime history.
So those who use the Bay must answer
Who’s to lose and who’s to win
‘Cause when you’re lookin’ where you’re goin’
You must see where you have been
Their ongoing commitment to community outreach inspires the AMM to host a variety of year-long special events. Among free-to-the-public events are the Eastport street parties, the Maryland Hall Winter Lecture Series, the City Dock Summertime Concert Series and Maryland Maritime Heritage Festival. On the museum campus there are the Third Annual market Day and the Rite of Spring Burning of the socks, and in Shady Side the Blessing of the Fleet Festival. There are admission fees for other events.
Creative fundraisers include co-hosting the annual July Beach Party at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Bay Ridge, conducting the Eastport Historic Walking Tour, hosting the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse Beach party, and managing a gift shop on the museum campus. Friends of the AMM are also hosting fundraisers at the Annapolis Galway Bay and the Boatyard Bar and Grill.
The survival of our maritime museum depends on the generosity of friends and neighbors from the corporate sector to the community in the form of grants, gifts and services. Some funding comes from government agencies and local organizations. There are major corporate grants and numerous gifts from individuals and groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society, the Annapolis Yacht Club, Annapolis Rotary and the Gateways Network. Some friends become members. One benefit of membership is a quarterly newsletter published under the banner, “Help us preserve and teach 400 years of maritime history.” Some friends and members become volunteers whose gifts of time, energy and expertise are truly inestimable. Of the more than 200 active volunteers, some worked with Stephanie Reynolds to plant 4,000 pounds of oyster shells for a new oyster reef. Volunteers are needed year round to greet visitors, answer questions on shore and escort tour groups to the Lighthouse. Seasonal volunteers are needed to staff the AMM booths at the Annapolis Boat Shows and other special events.
AMM celebrates with music. Popular at their events is the music of many fine songwriters and performers, including Chesapeake Bay balladeers, Them Eastport Oyster Boys (sometimes with Friends), Tom Wisner, Janie Meneely, and Bob Zentz. Their songs range from the rousing sea-chanty rhythm of the waterman at work to the gentle ballads. Music is also integral to the design of a major fundraising event planned for spring of 2006 at Maryland Hall when the AMM will present Bringing Back the Bay— A Tribute to Marion Warren , the “Ansel Adams” of the Chesapeake and a long-time friend of the AMM. This multi-media production will feature highlights from Warren’s lifetime collection, including some never-seen-before photos, with music by Them O’ Boys, the Gospel Choir of Mt. Zion Church and a brass quintet performing the Thomas Point Suite by Randy Neilson. All proceeds from tickets for a VIP reception and general admission and sales of a DVD of the event produced by Richard Olsenius will benefit the AMM and the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse Maritime Exhibit.
Those who support the museum through gifts and attendance at such fundraisers can be proud of the work of the museum. AMM has been honored by the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church and the Maryland Historic Trust for the exhibit tracing the ancestors of the Eastport African-American Community. Awards for the exhibit on the Historic boatyards of Spa Creek and the Eastport Historic Walking Tour were given by the Historic Annapolis Foundation. The Four Rivers Heritage Area award was given to AMM for their Summertime Concert Series.
Buchanan calls this “an exciting time for the museum;” truly a time of dedication and energy moving forward with an interim name for the Barge House, an interim office, as well as interim designs of virtual tours for interactive exhibits and fundraisers. In their creative flow of the interim, museum staff and supporters reflect the ebb and flow of the Bay that is part of its campus. With the solid leadership of Buchanan, Hoffman and Wallace—three sailors steering its future -- the Annapolis Maritime Museum is surviving and thriving; and will continue to do so with the help of friends and neighbors.
This old Bay has seen a lot of livin’
This old Bay from end to end
Now it’s time we people started givin’
This old Bay could use a friend*
The museum continues to welcome donations of gifts and services. To take an active role by becoming a member or a more active role by volunteering, contact the AMM hotline at 410-295-0104.
* Copywright Bob Zentz from the CD Hove-to, and Drifting