The Chesapeake Bay is the site of one of the world’s great bird migrations. Each spring and fall, hundreds of thousands of geese, ducks, shorebirds, and songbirds find refuge along the Bay’s marshy shoreline. This abundance has created distinct cultures of market gunners, outlaws, hunters, birdwatchers, and collectors. In the Waterfowling Building you can discover why the Bay attracts flocks of migrating birds and about the sport, industry, and art of waterfowling.
The exhibit begins with market gunning and outlaw gunners who devised ingenious ways of hunting and getting around conservation laws. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Chesapeake waterfowl was served at elite hotels and men’s clubs in cities along the eastern seaboard. The exhibit also includes the most comprehensive public collections of working decoys from the Mid Atlantic region. With origins in the Native American culture, the decoy is truly an American art form. Many different traditions of decoy carving are represented in the Museum’s collection. With the availability of plastic and other inexpensive factory-made decoys in the post-World War II era, the folk art of decoy carving evolved into the decorative form that has produced the many beautiful and life-like forms we see today.