Oystering on the Chesapeake
Step onboard an oyster harvesting skipjack, the E.C. Collier, and enter the world of the working watermen on the Chesapeake Bay. Eavesdrop on the captain and crew as the captain shouts orders; the cook talks about lunch; the crew brings in the dredge, sorts the oysters, talks about the captain behind his back.
This participatory exhibit tells the story of how the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster fishery has shaped the region’s history, culture, and landscape. After leaving the boat, you can examine oyster harvesting equipment — from hand tongs to the dredge imported from New England which precipitated the Oyster Wars, a fierce and violent struggle between traditional hand tongers and the new dredgers. The oyster’s journey from the Bay to the table is portrayed in both artifacts and historic photographs of a bygone era. Once so bountiful that the Chesapeake oyster found its way in quantities across the country, the exhibit tells the story of how the oyster fishery affected the culture and fortunes of generations. Today’s harvests are one hundredth of what they were at their height in the late 19th century.