Spring has finally sprung and two maritime museums on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore are open for the season with new and expanded exhibits.
A road trip through the counties of Talbot and Somerset could take you to the Tilghman Watermen’s Museum on Tilghman Island and then the J. Millard Tawes Museum in Crisfield, two small, culture-rich museums with new things to see.
Crisfield, depending upon who you ask, is either the crab capital of the world, the sunset/sunrise capital, or maybe even both. It’s also the home of the J. Millard Tawes Museum (named for the 54th governor of the State of Maryland, a Crisfield native). The museum, part of the Crisfield Heritage Association, showcases the region’s agricultural and maritime heritage. Created from artifacts donated by members of the community, “Our Agricultural Heritage” displays photos of farm life and work, and the tools used to produce crops and dairy products, including a collection of vintage milk bottles from a number of Crisfield dairies.
The nearby Ward Brothers Building was the workshop of the innovative brothers and barbers turned decoy carvers. Nationally known, the Wards pioneered a unique decorative style so well recognized that between the two men, an honorary doctorate, designation as a state treasure and the naming as a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow was earned. With some of their original tools on display, a visit to their shop is a trip back into a time where necessity and creativity formed to create a nationally honored technique.
Souvenir shoppers, take note: the museum’s gift shop offers creations from local artists, memorabilia and the largest collection of regional books, children’s titles and cookbooks in the area. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10—2 p.m., and closed on Sunday and Monday. More information can be found at the website crisfieldheritage.org.
Talbot County’s Tilghman Island, or simply Tilghman as it’s called by locals, is three miles long, one mile wide and one of the few remaining working waterfront communities in the state of Maryland. The Tilghman Watermen’s Museum honors the heritage of the “place that just gets up and goes to work.” Among its exhibits is the newly expanded “Tilghman Back in the Day”, a tribute to the Tilghman Country Store. The Sherwood Village exhibit highlights the island’s agricultural roots and the men and women who worked in the canning industry.
The artists’ works on display show a deep appreciation for the waterman’s way of life. There’s work from the late Bill Cummings, a Tilghman waterman and artist. Artist Colleen Sadler is also a Tilghman native who works on the water. Easton’s Nancy Tankersley’s paintings of Chesapeake Bay watermen at work earned her the honor of featured artist at the 49th Waterfowl Festival in Easton. Marc Castelli, an artist who spent years working beside Bay watermen, is not only an artist but their advocate in the House and Senate, among other opportunities to make his voice heard on their behalf. Now the museum’s Artist in Residence, Castelli is creating interpretive signs for the Museum’s 2022 outdoor exhibits.
The Tilghman Watermen’s Museum is open on weekends from 10 a.m.—3 p.m. Visit them at tilghmanmuseum.org, and call 410-866-2930 or 410-866-1190 to schedule an appointment outside of regular museum hours.
Although spring and summer on the Shore bring to mind crab feasts, the beach, and Bay Bridge gridlock, a detour off the highway to these museums reveals much more to the Eastern Shore’s communities.