Meet: Bill Dudley, Board Member
When Bill Dudley moved to Maryland 20 years ago, he knew he wanted to be close to the Chesapeake Bay. Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Bill was a lifelong sailor. He noticed striking similarities between the Chesapeake Bay and the Great South Bay, saying that “living on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay felt like coming home again.” He immediately fell in love with the environment and culture.
Bill first became connected to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum when he was invited to give a lecture in the 1980s. He was working as a historian with the Navy, and gave a talk on the role of the Navy in the American Revolution. Following this lecture, Bill and his family became Museum members and regularly visited CBMM as they sailed the Bay. Bill soon became interested in the history of the area, and wanted to become involved in an organization that was helping to preserve it. After giving another lecture at the Museum in 2010, he was invited to join the Board. Bill’s background as a historian makes him an excellent member of the Museum’s Collections Committee, and his vast experience brings much to the Museum.
Bill is a past-president of the North American Society for Oceanic History and the Society for History in the Federal Government. Presently, he serves as the Chair of the Maritime Committee of the Maryland Historical Society, is on the Board of Directors of the Naval Historical Foundation, the Editorial Advisory Committee of Sea History magazine, is the Historian General of the Naval Order of the United States, and is an appointed member of the Maryland Advisory Committee on Archaeology. He retired from the Naval Historical Center in 2004, currently works as a Maritime Heritage Consultant, and serves as Historical Advisor to the Annapolis Maritime Museum and the Ocean Technology Foundation, Groton, CT. He is an appointed member of the Resources and Stewardship Advisory Committee of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, and is a member of the Williams Club of New York City. His most recent work is Maritime Maryland: A History, in which he creates a vivid picture of Maryland’s nautical past in its broadest scope, exploring the complex and nuanced interactions of people, land, and water, through descriptions of shipbuilding, steam technology, agricultural pollution, commercial and passenger transportation, naval campaigns, watermen, crabbing, and oystering.
Bill recognizes the importance of CBMM’s role in continuing to help people learn about the Bay after formal schooling stops. “For the many people who have concluded their education and moved on to a working life, the best place to continue learning is in a museum that contains the artifacts, documents, and art that interprets the history of the Bay.” For Bill, the Museum resonates with people and brings them to a closer understanding of Chesapeake history and culture.
CBMM interprets the history of the Bay for more than 70,000 guests annually. Bill points out, for example, that “it is the one place you can go to, to get a complete picture of the region’s commercial history. For example, by highlighting the artifacts of the oyster business, CBMM communicates how the Bay was harvested and how people earned their living.”
Bill believes that CBMM does an amazing job with its displays, especially with the wooden boats that were used for both recreation and work. The log canoes, skipjacks, and bay craft highlight how local boatbuilders adjusted their skills to the geography and behavior of the Bay. Bill is truly appreciative of how CBMM has preserved so many of the boats that are part of the rich history of working, playing and living along the Bay.
Bill views the Museum as an organization that wants to make the best of our memories of the Bay as it was, as it is, and what it will become. There has always been an interaction between the Bay and its people, for better or worse. Indeed, CBMM acts as a safe place to discuss this history.
CBMM would like to thank Bill for his time and dedication to the Museum!