Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum announces annual Fall Speaker Series

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md., will begin its Fall Speaker Series on Wednesday, Oct. 10, and continue on select dates through Thursday, Nov. 8. All sessions take place in CBMM’s Van Lennep Auditorium, and advance registration is encouraged.

The upcoming speaker series is based around CBMM’s newest exhibition, Exploring the Chesapeake: Mapping the Bay, which looks at the different ways the Chesapeake Bay has been portrayed over time through mapping and charting, beginning with European exploration in the 16th century and continuing with the growth of settlement in the region in the 17th and 18th centuries. Scientific surveying methods brought improved accuracy in the 19th century, and special purpose maps proliferated in the 20th century. More recent decades have introduced satellite imagery, geographic information systems, and Google maps, which continue to change how people view and understand the region. The exhibition presents changes in maps over time as an expression of what people were seeking in the Chesapeake: natural resources, transportation, and more. It is on display in CBMM’s Steamboat Building through March 2019.

The speaker series kicks off on Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 5pm with “John Smith on the Chesapeake Bay: Old Maps, New Science, and a Historical Controversy.” In an attempt to discover the true route of Captain John Smith on his voyage up the Chesapeake Bay in 1608, Dr. Michael Scott and his team of geographers at Salisbury University accidentally stumbled into a major historical controversy. This presentation will discuss the processes John Smith used to map the Bay in the early 17th century, the methods used by modern geographers to unravel the true nature behind historical maps, and how the links between the two can help history come alive for modern-day explorers of the Chesapeake.

“Where is Watkins Point?: Mapping Maryland’s Southern Boundary,” at 2pm on Wednesday, Oct.17, invites guests to delve into the controversy surrounding Maryland’s southern boundary with Edward Papenfuse, retired Maryland State Archivist and Commissioner of Land Patents. Drawing on research from the depositions from the Smith Islanders who liked to spin a great tale, historic maps and land surveys, and even Thomas Jefferson’s interpretation of the Southern Boundary, Papenfuse will explore how this story has unfolded over time, from the Oyster Wars to the Supreme Court.

“The Restoration of Poplar Island,” on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 5pm will attempt to answer the question: how does an island in the Chesapeake Bay go from 1,140 acres to less than 5 acres, and then rebound back to 1,140 again? Join Rachael Gilde, an environmental specialist with the Maryland Environmental Service, to explore how the placement of dredged material is restoring a once-disappearing island to a unique and thriving wildlife habitat within Chesapeake Bay, while also supporting the maritime industry in the Chesapeake.

Using historic maps, census data, and old photos, the staff and students at the Washington College GIS Lab have mapped historical community resources through the creation of interactive 3D maps of Chestertown and Easton. Join GIS Program Director Erica McMaster for “Building a 3D Town: GIS Mapping of Historic Easton and Chestertown,” at 2pm on Thursday, Nov. 1, to explore how to these digital resources are supporting historic preservation and plans for future development.

The final offering in the series is “Innovation in Conservation,” set for 2 pm Thursday, Nov. 8. Identified by GIS (geographic information system) giant Esri as a trailblazer in cutting-edge conservation technology, the Chesapeake Conservancy has been leading the way in applying emerging mapping technologies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of conservation and restoration practices throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. President and CEO Joel Dunn will discuss the impact and future potential for the Chesapeake Conservancy’s work, supporting efforts to conserve the culturally and ecologically important landscapes of the Chesapeake Bay.

The cost per session is $7.50 per person, with a 20% discount for CBMM members. Register online for all five sessions using the code SPEAKER5 for an additional discount. To sign up, and for more information, visit

Print of 1612 map by John Smith, Virginia, 1624. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.