Maritime expansion

Museum plans upgrades to contain new exhibits

December 28, 2008|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to The Baltimore Sun

The Havre de Grace Maritime Museum was started in 1988 to help preserve the maritime traditions and history of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay area.

After more than a decade of sharing space with another organization, the museum moved in 2001 to its own building in Havre de Grace. Now, to accommodate the growing number of people who use the museum and its programs, improvements and additions are being made to that building.

"Our programs are growing substantially," said Ann Persson, curator and director of programs at the museum. "And when we built the building, we didn't complete our plans."

The museum houses the Susquehanna Flats Environmental Center and the Chesapeake Wooden Boat Builder's School. The school provides basic wooden boat building, antique canoe repair and restoration, model ship building, and wooden boat repair and restoration. Workshops, demonstrations, a summer camp, archaeological events, festivals and holiday activities are also offered at the museum.

The improvements and additions to the museum include: building out the ground floor to house the Chesapeake Wooden Boat Builder's School and the Susquehanna Flats Environmental Center; completing the museum's gallery to include a Bay Life Discovery Room, as well as temporary and permanent exhibits; and constructing a second floor to house the Collections Preservation Center and a Maritime Library and Resource Center.

Museum officials are seeking to raise about $300,000 through a capital campaign to match state and federal grants that were received for this phase of construction, she said.

This month, the museum opened a temporary exhibit, and work is under way on a semipermanent exhibit, she said.

The temporary exhibit, Lights! Camera! Ocean! A Look at Classic and Modern Maritime Movies, examines maritime cinema. It includes fun facts about the making of maritime-related movies and historical trivia about the events that inspired the films, Persson said.

The semipermanent exhibit, Beyond Jamestown: Life 400 Years Ago, to open in March, will include displays that depict English and Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay Indian cultures.

"Currently, the exhibits you see in museums around the country that depict life 400 years ago depicts life in Virginia or life in Jamestown, but it doesn't include life in the Chesapeake Bay area," she said. "This exhibit was born out of the 400th commemoration of Jamestown but focuses on people who lived here."

A professional exhibit designer is working on the project, she said. The displays will include six dioramas that show life in the 17th century. The dioramas are intended to teach people about the differences in appearance, clothing, language and resources among the tribes, Persson said.

Museum officials are inviting living history interpreters to step into the scenes, she said.

One diorama will depict a Native-American trading ceremony, where representatives from several regional tribes have gathered with their wares, Persson said. The diorama will show the differences in appearance, language and resources among the regional tribes, she said.

Another scene will show life in a Susquehannock village. The scene will include women working in cornfields, cooking on open fires, scraping deer hides and mending wigwams, she said. Children will be depicted practicing with the bow and arrow, and playing physical games. And men will be shown burning dugouts and fishing in the river. One scene will portray the meeting between the tribes and John Smith and his crew, she said.

"We want people to know how the English would have looked when they stepped off the boats," she said. "And it will show the tribes as they were."

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