A Broad Reach:

50 Years of Collecting


Tools and traditions, objects and artifacts— these are the collections, from humble to splendid, that form the foundation of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. In 1965, the Museum was created as the product of a broad, grassroots effort, stemming from a perception that Chesapeake culture was changing quickly—and some aspects of it were disappearing completely. The end of steamboat service and the waning days of commercial sail sparked the movement to preserve elements of the Chesapeake way of life before they were gone forever. The community enthusiastically responded to the establishment of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum— flooding the fledging organization with family heirlooms and treasures that told the story of the Chesapeake and the people that called it home.

The Bay carries different meanings to the various people who use it. It is a pathway for our vessels, connecting us together. The Chesapeake has provided a great bounty of fish, shellfish and waterfowl since the time of Native Americans and the first European settlers. The Bay has also become a place of recreation, especially as leisure time expanded for the American middle class in the mid-20th century, and we increasingly enjoy these waters for cruising, fishing, racing, swimming, paddling and shoreside pursuits. The Bay inspires us in many ways, visible in our art, poetry, music and stories created in reaction and appreciation.

A Broad Reach: 50 Years of Collecting is an exhibition reflecting on the rich collections of the first half-century of this Museum’s history. Our work as a collecting institution is far from done; there are so many more stories to collect. And as the coming years unfold, new stories will emerge that need to be preserved for the next generation who will come to appreciate the Chesapeake Bay and its vibrant heritage.

View the Exhibition Gallery