Glamorous or not, a museum’s job is to tell the stories that we find important. Rock Hall’s legacy of fishing, crabbing and oystering stems from the people who made that industry thrive. They celebrated that legacy by opening the Waterman’s Museum in 1993
“This museum is dedicated to the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay, whose heritage plays a great role in the history of Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” reads a plaque beside the front door.
It used to be a private residence of a local waterman and his family. When Haven Harbor Marina bought the land surrounding it, the original owner had a heritage museum in mind.
“Yeah, it’s a cool little shop,” Sawyer Cornelius, marketing manager for the resort. “Everything generously donated by the town and other watermen in our region.”
Artifacts include news articles, paintings, skipjack and deadrise boat models, local carvings and many photographs of the people who lived and made a living from the Chesapeake. Many family photo albums were graciously opened to share reproductions on the museum walls.
Displays include different types of ropes, nets and tools for sailing, catching, picking and shucking.
One room is a reproduction of a waterman’s shanty house, including a small bed, woodstove, oil lamp and other belongings, which “illustrates the space and how it was kind of limited,” Cornelius said.
“It is, sadly, a vanishing way of life, the waterman industry. So in that respect it is nice to keep it alive in a museum environment,” Cornelius said. “We thank everyone for visiting and supporting it, and we appreciate all of the donations [there’s a donation box for the local waterman’s association] and feedback and praise for it. It’s fun to share our ways of living of bygone days.”
Local explorers can visit this and nine other Kent County sites, at the annual Museums of Kent Driving Tour on April 23 and 24. (The weekend will also incorporate Earth Day programming.) Indeed, the Waterman’s Museum is just one of many Rock Hall cultural sites.
“We have many, many focal points here: the statues, museums, artifacts, [and as the Town plans for the future] we are coming up with ideas for how we can better display those,” said Suzanne Einstein, president of Greater Rock Hall Business Association.
Recently, Washington College brought 15 students and instructors to explore the Waterman’s Museum, while studying how public spaces are used to tell stories. Students selected artifacts from the collection, which would ultimately create an interactive virtual gallery posted online for the public to see.
Waterman’s Museum is located at 20910 Rock Hall Avenue, Rock Hall, Md. Visitors can park for free next door at the Haven Harbor Marina (20880 Rock Hall Avenue).
Admission is free. Hours are the same as at the marina because visitors must sign-out the museum key from the marina’s desk; that will be daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting in late March for the summer season). For details, call (410) 778-6697 or visit havenharbour.com/museum.