Frances James, an 85-year-old waterman who still works the water nearly every day on his boat out of Mill Creek, said it all in an interview with oral historian John Willard:
The Annapolis Maritime Museum connects visitors, residents and especially students, to Annapolis’ unique maritime heritage and the natural wonder of the Chesapeake Bay. The Museum operates from a waterside campus on the shores of Back Creek, with unequaled views of the Chesapeake Bay. The Museum campus is the site of the last remaining oyster packing plant in the area, the McNasby Oyster Company building. The historic McNasby building is the ideal setting for meaningful waterfront education experiences, maritime seminars, concerts and other programs and events.
The Museum campus comprises the City-owned 7,000-square-foot McNasby Oyster Company building and the 600-square-foot Barge House. It provides rare access to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay with the Cap’n Herbie Sadler Waterman’s Park, TKF Meditation Garden, a picnic deck with three piers for fishing, crabbing or visiting by boat, and a small beach where you can launch your own canoe, kayak or tennis-ball retriever. The Museum has permanent and rotating exhibits and an ongoing calendar of special events.
The Museum began as the Eastport Historical Society housed in the historic Barge House on the shores of Back Creek in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis. It now leases the Barge House, Museum grounds and historic McNasby Oyster Company building from the City of Annapolis. The Museum operates with grants and private donations.
We are the only institution in this area telling our maritime story and bringing maritime history to life for residents, visitors, and school kids.
We are a living museum, dedicated to teaching by experiencing and inspiring by example using hands-on, live, and modern program techniques:
In an upcoming exhibit, kids will stand in an authentic shucking stall, in the very footprints the shucker wore into the wooden slats on the bottom, and hear the stories of workers like Lyle Smith, who used to stand in that exact spot next to his grandmother and shuck a of gallon oysters before going to the Third Street School for “colored children” around the corner. Lyle admired “Mac” McNasby as a fair man. In an otherwise segregated society, Mac didn’t care about the color of your skin; he’d pay every waterman the same for his oysters and paid his shuckers better than most other oyster house owners.
In ways like this we stimulate imaginations, reaching out to young people, making them feel more involved and connected to their community, personally more productive and better citizens. Our 4th and 8th grade programs have become an integral part of Anne Arundel County school curriculum.
Rising from the flood …
September 20, 2003: Buck Buchanan, Museum Chairman, and Jeff Holland, Museum Director, survey the damage. Hurricane Isabel has flooded the museum with pounding waves and water over six feet deep. Looking out over Back Creek, the deck and docks are gone, the buildings severely damaged. “What now?” Jeff asks. “Rebuild,” Buck replies.
So what has happened since then?
Our first little home, the 600-square-foot “Barge House” has been completely restored thanks to the generosity of the business community and volunteers, and is open to the public. It forms the interpretive center for the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse.
Our membership and volunteer hours have more than doubled.
School trips, concerts, lectures, the Goucher College Historic Preservation and Archaeology programs, development of the Thomas Point Shoal Light visitation program, and educational programs sanctioned by the Board of Education continue unabated.
“Oysters on the Half-Shell,” our initial permanent exhibit, will be installed in the next few years.
Our staff and systems have been strengthened; we are CPA audited annually.
Our expenditures on programs for, and supported by, the community have exceeded $200,000.
In December 2008 we opened the newly restored McNasby building. McNasby’s provides the Annapolis are with a state-of-the-art waterfront educational facility, including classrooms, an exhibition gallery, and an assembly hall that is in daily use for classes, lectures, concerts, and community meetings. See photos of the renovation.
Because of our progressive, interactive concept, we will have a far greater impact on the community than more traditional institutions. We not a passive repository, but an out-reaching, motivated group dedicated to improving quality of life for everyone; dedicated to strengthening the unique character of this community; dedicated to stimulating respect for the, for the Bay, and for each other; and dedicated to strengthening the economy of our community.
The first phase of the Museum’s long range vision is almost complete with the renovation of the McNasby Oyster Plant and campus on Back Creek, named the “Bay Experience Center.” Powerful exhibits have been designed and will be built and installed as funds permit.
The campus is centered on the last remaining oyster plant in the region with its docks, decks, and beach on Back Creek providing unique access to the Bay. It is ideal for hands-on learning experiences focusing on Bay marine life and culture including the study of oysters and crabs, the watermen who harvest them, and the people who made their living in the many oyster houses like McNasby’s.
Your support is vital
The Annapolis Maritime Museum needs your support to let the “Voice of the Community” be heard loudly and clearly. An understanding of our roots can build pride in our community, pride in our Bay, and pride in ourselves yielding an even better quality of life for all of us. In a difficult era of uncertain values, we believe this venture deserves your support.
Please join us in this ambitious undertaking and make a generous gift to our “Full Steam Ahead” capital campaign. Your community, and particularly your community’s children, will appreciate your commitment.