Permanent Exhibits

​​Beyond Jamestown: Life 400 Years Ago


This exhibit tells the story that begins on July 24, 1608 when a crew of twelve Englishmen, under the leadership of Captain John Smith, set sail from the settlement of Jamestown, Va. on the second leg of their voyage up the Chesapeake Bay.  They were strangers in a strange land, on a mission to chart the Bay, look for gold, find the fabled Northwest Passage to Asia and to establish trade networks with any Native American communities they encountered.

Step back in time, discover life in the Upper Bay 400 years ago and go Beyond Jamestown.
You may be surprised at what you discover.
Working On The Bay







The Chesapeake Bay is the Nation’s largest estuary and historically has supported one of the most productive fisheries in the world.  Chesapeake Bay inhabitants have harvested herring, shad, eel, oysters, crab, perch, catfish and bass.  Who harvests these waters?  Watermen do.  They are the men and women who make a living from the Bay.  Many of these men and women are passed down the skills of fishing, crabbing and oystering from previous generations in their families.  On display are a variety of tools used by Watermen to harvest the Bay. 

Discover how wooden workboats were made by exploring the tools used to create these boats.  Take a seat on the wooden work bench and experience what it was like to create a wooden boat. Ever hear of a floating fishery?  No?  That because commercial fishing ended in the Chesapeake Bay from overfishing and from the building of the Conowingo Dam, which stopped various fish from being able to migrate up the Susquehanna River to their spawning grounds.  Watermen still harvest these waters today, but they are few and far between.

The Ice Harvest

Before the 1920s when industrialization created a more modern refrigerator, ice was not easily accessible as it is today.  Natural ice was harvested off of frozen lakes and rivers by men and animals in order to supply the growing demand.

Havre de Grace had several ice warehouses that were used to cut, store and deliver ice to Baltimore and to its local residents. Discover how the ice business was brought to Swan Creek by William Michael and Abedego Taylor.  Learn exactly how the tools were used to cut through fifteen inches of ice.  Even though ice nowadays is artificial and can be made right at home, observe the difficult task of how ice was naturally harvested by working men from the 1870’s to the 1910’s.

United States Coast Guard

The modern-day Coast Guard was formed in 1915 after the merger of U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service which were established in 1790 and 1878 respectively.  The Revenue Cutter Service was charged with the patrol of the coast, by sea, to enforce tariffs and trade laws in order to prevent smuggling and protect the United States’ maritime interests.  During the War of 1812, the Revenue Cutter Service demonstrated its capabilities as a formidable naval warfare force.  Members of the Life-Saving Service were stationed along the shore year-round patrolling along the coast land performing rescue operations for and rendering aid to crews from offshore shipwrecks. The Coast Guard is a branch of the Armed Services that during peacetime, operates under the Treasury Department and in times of war, falls under the Department of the Navy and has played a notable role in all conflicts along the United States shores since its inception. 

Recreation on The Chesapeake

Havre de Grace is a great area for recreational activities on the Chesapeake Bay.  From boating to fishing, the Bay offers a relaxing and fun environment.  Discover the history of swimwear and recreational cruises on the Chesapeake.  Browse through our collection of fishing equipment and boat motors.  The recreation activities of the past are certainly present and thriving today. 

Ship's Life Saving Equipment

Before boating safety was made convenient through inflatable life jackets and plastic life rings, there were other resources used to ensure ones safety while out on the water.  From the 1900's till about 1990's life rings and life vests were made out of cork.  Even the use of plastic was not common until 1944 when life boats carried sextants onboard to help guide the mariner when using a navigation chart.

Learn all about how all ships required a certain type of equipment based on the vessel and its size.  Discover how large portable marine radios were transported from the ship to the life boat, how a Lyle gun was used to save sailors and their wrecked ships and how a cork life ring with canvas pants attached to the bottom could pull a survivor out of the water. Take a swim through history and experience earlier methods of saving lives out on the open waters.

Depopulation of the Waterfowl

"No duck, no dinner" was a saying used in the past because fresh duck was utilized by everyone.  From proprietors of restaurants in the cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, duck meat was shipped and served as meals to local residents.  The fashion trade even jumped in on hunting various waterfowl to acquire colorful plumage for use in ladies' hats and accessories.

Bay Hunting was aided with decoys and the usage of the sneak box, the punt gun and the deadrise boat.  Combined with a population of migratory birds that seemingly never depleted, human destruction of waterfowl comprised mainstream hunting on the Chesapeake Bay before new regulations for the survival of Bay birds were drafted in 1918.

Bethlehem Steel Corporation Shipbuilding Division


The Bethlehem Steel Corporation was created in 1905.  It was one of the three largest shipbuilding companies in the United States.  The Sparrow’s Point Shipyard was four miles long and employed over 40,000 workers by the 1950’s.

Sparrow’s Point was the building grounds of the SS Bethtex and SS Venore.  The SS Bethtex was captained by Arthur Eich and scrapped in 1980.  It remains one of the most productive carries of its time.  Models of these ships are on display in our Bethlehem Steel exhibit.


Throughout time, ships of all kinds used some sort of method to navigate the waters.  From star charts to GPS, discover the various tools for navigation of a ship.  Stand at the ship’s wheel to get the Captain’s view of the binnacle.  Don’t forget to look up for signal flags!

The City of Norfolk Steamship

Old Conowingo