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Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum plans for 50th anniversary

Plans are underway for a year-long celebration at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md., as the institution prepares for its 50th anniversary in 2015. Led by a committee of museum staff and board, the festivities kick off on Memorial Day weekend with a May 23 Party on the Point: Celebrating 50 Years on the Bay festival, and the opening of a major exhibition showcasing the 50 most significant artifacts in the museum’s collection.

According to CBMM’s Chief Curator Pete Lesher, the idea of forming a museum originated with a grassroots group of community members and Talbot County’s historical society in 1963. The hope of starting a museum took shape with the purchase of the historic Higgins, Dodson and Eagle Houses along St. Michaels’ harbor, which now serve as the museum’s administrative buildings.

“Fifty years ago, the community helped lay the keel of this institution,” said CBMM’s President Kristen Greenaway. “And since then, they’ve helped the museum chart a course that has made these last fifty years remarkable. So it’s this same sense of community that highlights our 50th anniversary celebrations in the coming year.”

Soon after the museum acquired those historic homes in 1965, adjacent property along St. Michaels’ Navy Point was also purchased, with plans to house historic structures, exhibition buildings, a library and the museum’s growing collections.

“What was once the home of seafood processing and packing houses has transformed a great deal over the last 50 years,” said Lesher. “The Crab Claw Restaurant and Patriot Cruises are still here, and our campus now hosts more than 68,000 guests annually from all over the world, to explore and celebrate the Chesapeake Bay, its history and cultures.”

The Crab Claw Restaurant and Patriot Cruises are also participating in the 50th anniversary celebrations. The Crab Claw will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a Friday, May 22 evening event and Patriot Cruises will offer special cocktail river cruises on Sunday, May 24.

CBMM’s activities and events in celebration of the 50th anniversary include a new exhibition titled A Broad Reach: 50 Years of Collecting, which will open at a private President’s reception on May 22, before opening to the public the next day. The exhibition will feature the top 50 pieces that have been accessioned into the museum’s collections over the past 50 years and will be accompanied by a commemorative catalogue featuring photography of each collection piece.

On May 23, the museum will celebrate its milestone anniversary with Party on the Point: Celebrating 50 Years on the Bay. The festival will feature the new exhibition opening, plus boat rides, live music, regional foods, a children’s art competition, family activities and the launch of a #Snapshots2Selfies and time capsule community project that will both wrap up in May, 2016. Both projects encourage museum guests to share their memories of the Chesapeake Bay over the last 50 years through photographs and other memorabilia.

“Turning 50 is a significant milestone for our institution,” said Greenaway. “With community and philanthropic support, we’ve accomplished and grown so much, and yet we have much more to do. We are very much looking forward to what the next 50 years will bring.”

For more information, visit CBMM in St. Michaels, online at or call 410-745-2916.