A special exhibit is devoted to the life and work of James B. ("Mr. Jim") Richardson (1906-1991), for whom the Museum at 401 High Street is named. Some of his hand tools, examples of wooden carvings and gifts made for his family. Photos, drawings and models of the vessels he made are featured, as are exhibits of special vessels he built, such as the replica of the Dove, the 17th-century ship that helped bring early colonists to the Chesapeake Bay area. The trailboards from the Jenny Norman, the bugeye he built as his last boat, are displayed on a replica of the bowsprit and cutwater.
Chesapeake Bay Wooden Boat Models
The museum's collection of more than 50 Chesapeake Bay wooden boat models is unique. Most of the models, built between 30 and 60 years ago by mid-shore watermen and builders of traditional work vessels, depict the rich history of Bay craft dating from the late 18th through the mid-20th century.
The models represent actual historic vessels, ranging from famous privateers of the late 1700s through the whole variety of oyster dredge boats (bugeyes, skipjacks, pungys), freight schooners, crabbing skiffs and powered work boats (including the dovetail type) used for oystering, eeling, crabbing and fishing.
A special exhibit, displayed in a boatbuilder's shed on the main floor, consists of traditional boatbuilders' hand tools, work bench and measuring devices. Once used by local boatbuilders, one- and two-man rip and crosscut saws, molding and rabbet hand planes, scrapes, clamps, drills, ship's augers, levels, calipers, mallets and caulking irons are displayed, showing the surface areas worn smooth over the years by the owners' hands.
Watermen's Equipment and Gear
A room is devoted to equipment and gear used by watermen to dredge and tong for oysters, scrape or bait crabs, and trap eels and fish. On display is a rare eel float (car) in which eels were kept alive before taking them to market. Most of this equipment is typical of that used on the Bay and rivers with little change over the last 150 years.
Thanks to a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, the Museum has new interpretive displays and signage to provide visitors with more insight into the boatbuilding heritage of Dorchester County. The signage includes more than a dozen new interpretive panels like the one shown here, new individual exhibit labels for artifacts and models, and a wayside panel outside the Museum to invite visitors to come in and explore the history.
The panels were designed to present an overview of boatbuilding in the area. They include explanations of why the county was ideal for the industry, descriptions of the various vessels unique to the Chesapeake Bay, spotlights on selected boatbuilding families, and stories of men and women who have used the boats to make their living on the water.
Donations Of Models Adds To Our Collection
A generous donation of five models by master modeler Raymond K. Miles has expanded and enhanced our fine collection of Chesapeake Bay ship models. Mr. Miles has donated models of a box stern workboat, a Chesapeake Bay buyboat, a crabbing skiff and the U.S. Coast Guard Lightship, “Chesapeake” and 1813 steamboat “The Chesapeake”.
In addition, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, home of the buyboat “Mr. Jim,” built by Tom Howell in memory of his father-in-law Jim Richardson, has donated a model of the boat to us that was built by Don Willey.
We thank both of these donors for their additions to our collection and welcome everyone to come and see for themselves the exquisite workmanship that went into these classic Chesapeake Bay boat models.
Nathan of Dorchester
The skipjack Nathan of Dorchester, the last skipjack (oyster dredgeboat) built in the 20th century (1994), is featured in drawings, photos and prints. In addition, a large model is showcased along with trophies from races and special events.
Videos are available for sale and to view that describe the building of the Nathan and its sailing program, devoted to keeping the skipjack heritage alive.
The Nathan of Dorchester was built a hundred years after and within a short walk of where the first Chesapeake Bay skipjack, Eva, was built. Both were constructed and launched on the upper reach of Cambridge Creek in the heart of Cambridge.
The Ruark Boatworks
The James B. Richardson Foundation's boatbuilding and restoration programs are centered at the Ruark Boatworks located on Cambridge Creek. Named after noted local boat designer and modeler Harold Ruark, the Boatworks has two major programs underway:
- Restoration of the 100-year-old two story Boatworks building
- Building and restoration of traditional
- wooden Bay craft
These programs embody the Foundation's mission to preserve and teach traditional wooden boatbuilding techniques, with dedication to "Putting History on the Water".
The Foundation owns six traditional wooden boats, all scheduled for or in various stages of rebuilding or restoration. All were built by well known local boatbuilders twenty to sixty years ago.
Brannock Education & Research Center
The newly acquired Brannock Education and Research Center is located on the second floor of the Ruark Boatworks building.
The opening and hours of operation to be announced.