2.5 Bringing the Narratives to Life

The narratives summarized on the previous page provide a general outline of Crisfield’s marketable historical assets, and as previously addressed, it’s of crucial importance that the overall planning be primarily focused towards targeting specific audiences.  Ages Y-16 will be the largest group coming for field trips, and the majority of general admission visitors will likely be comprised equally of all age groups.

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ATTRACTION – Virtual Interactive Exhibits: 

Appealing to the above-mentioned groups will be enhanced with the use of digital interactive exhibits.  While artifacts and traditional exhibits should be utilized, computerized displays and activities that engage young visitors will also receive great interest. 

Moreover, these will also provide career positions that will be relevant in the future.  I have a vast amount of information on this, as well as ideas for exhibits that may be popular that are not included in this report.  

An increasing number of museums and discovery centers are implementing exhibits that are based on computer generated imaging.  This technology allows for practically any moment in history to be recreated, and portrayed in a way that gives the visitor a realistic experience, and even allow visitors to play games and do other activities.

These type of exhibits will provide high-skilled career opportunities to help lessen the number of Crisfield’s youth that relocate to find work.

One example is to have booths for visitors to watch a computer generated 3-D video of an episode from our history.  By using this technology, visitors will be able to virtually experience what the area was like when John Smith explored the area in 1608, or have a virtual program of an encounter with Oyster Pirates.  The possibilities are endless.   

Virtual googles offer limitless possibilities.  Software can be created where visitors who are wearing the goggles would be a captain of a pungy-boat and attempt to safely sail the vessel from the Tangier Sound to Crisfield through a violent storm.

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ATTRACTION – Reenactments of Episodes & Historic ‘Celebrities’:

As explained above, people relate to characters and adventurous episodes.  Pirates are of interest to practically everyone, therefore, the names of these characters must become popular, as should the heros who were dedicated to upholding peace and order.  In essence, these episodes have to become ‘famous,’ and the historical figures have to be promoted to make them ‘celebrities.’  Even though our characters may never reach the fame of ‘Blackbeard,’ when people hear the name ‘Capt. Francis Makeele’ (Pirate of Watts Island), everyone should know who it is, and simultaneously, they should also relate this name to Crisfield.      

Methods to achieve this are one – focus on the youth.  When a class books a field-trip to the CA&DC, lesson-plans, study-guides and worksheets should immediately be sent to teachers so they can include them into their curriculum.  This will familiarize the students with the characters and events that the students will be experiencing during their field-trip at the CA&DC.  Moreover, it will help engrain these names and events into the student’s long-term memory enabling these characters to become part of the lexicon.  Incidentally, I have material that I plan on using to produce educational material that’s explained in this paragraph.    

A second method that will help make our historical characters popular, and something that I feel is essential, is to have people actually portray some of these figures from the past.  They would don historically accurate apparel, receive the training needed to act the part and engage the students and visitors to provide a realistic experience.  

As stated in previous sections, for tourism to prosper in Crisfield it must be done on a scale large enough to attract traffic from the D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and other areas that are over a hundred miles away.  One aspect that is a part of essentially every successful historic-tourism based destination is that they have professionally produced reenactments.  The CA&DC must have these as well.

Five characters that could be portrayed are: 

➢ Ned the Annemessex Indian: He lived in the area of Hopewell, MD and could explain what life was like before the English Colonists arrived; his people’s relationship with nature, how they utilized everything and the defense methods that were used to prevent them from being conquered and taken captive by rival indian nations.  

Ned could share the changes that came when the English arrived.  The good relations they had with the Quakers early on, and how it changed quickly as more settlers arrived and his people being forced into moving to a reservation near Snow Hill.  Ned would share how his people’s legacy remains to this day.  There are numerous locals who could play the part of Ned.  

  This is the apparel that Ned would’ve worn.

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➢ Stephen Horsey: His story has been previously shared here, and all aspects of his life is of extreme importance; from being an indentured servant to him becoming a prominent elected representative, and then leaving it all and starting over because he disagreed with the despotism of others.  His part could be played by an older gentleman, an Islander would be perfect considering their elizabethan accent.   

 Stephen’s re-enactor could look like the man pictured here.

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➢ Sarah Horsey: She was the wife of Stephen, and could share what life was like for females during colonial times.  She could also tell how 1000’s of people are descended from her and Stephen, and it’s the same with countless other early families.  She could tell what life was like for her female descendants throughout history, an example of which could be the women who spent countless sleepless nights worrying about their fathers, husbands and sons who were in grave danger out working the water.

The type of clothing Sarah would’ve worn.

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➢ Anthony Johnson:  His   background was also explained above, but he could share what it was like being abducted by a rival tribe in Angola, Africa and sold into the Transatlantic Slave Trade, coming to Jamestown, then becoming a plantation owner on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, then coming to Somerset.  He could also share the hardships – and the perseverance – shown by Americans of African descent.

  Anthony’s reenactor could dress like the man pictured above. 

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➢ Pirates: Of course the CA&DC is going to need some scallywags, and there are countless locals who would fit the parts perfectly.  

Capt. Francis Makeele would be a perfect representation of a 17th century pirate, a  picaroon could be used for the 18th and an oyster pirate for the 19th century.

Capt. Makeele was described as wearing flamboyant clothing trimmed in gold and brandishing pistols and a saber.  
 Typical dress for a 18th century picaroon.
Most 19th century oystermen wore thick ponchos a floppy hat similar to what is shown here.

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ATTRACTION – Maritime Vessels: 

Considering that two of the Bay’s most iconic maritime vessels, the pungy-boat and the bugeye, originated in Crisfield, they should certainly be represented.  However, since these are already being displayed elsewhere, and, that Crisfield will likely have to build these new and their cost will be substantial, it may be wise to plan their construction after the CA&DC is operating and generating revenue.  

Additionally, if these will be replicas, their designs should be produced in accordance with USCG regulations for passenger vessels, and by doing tours on them it will generate revenue from the ticket sales from nautical tours.  Since it may take a few years before the CA&DC accumulates enough capital to even begin planning to build these vessels, actions should be taken to temporarily obtain a historic maritime vessel to be docked at the CA&DC.  

Incidentally, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is currently building a new replica of the ‘Maryland Dove,’ with its construction being scheduled for completion in 2021.  The original ‘Dove’ was the smaller of the two ships that brought the first colonists to Maryland in 1634.  The Dove that’s currently being built is the second replica of the Dove, the first replica was built in 1978 and its current homeport is St. Mary’s, MD.  

I don’t have any knowledge of what the fate will be for the 1978 replica once the new one is completed, however, it’s certainly worth looking into if there’s a possibility that the 1978 replica could come to Crisfield.  It’s 78’ in length, the masts rise 68’ into the air, and just being docked in Crisfield would certainly generate traffic.  Even though the Dove is linked with St. Marys’ history, ships like the Dove did sail throughout the Bay and a large number of ships similar to the Dove were built in Somerset County, so the vessel is relevant to our history as well.  

Again, I don’t know the future of the 1978 Dove, but if it hasn’t already been determined, attempts should be made to get the ship here.  It would facilitate tourist traffic now, and being docked beside the CA&DC would greatly enhance the visual appeal.  

  The replica of the Maryland Dove.

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ATTRACTION – Battle Barge & Gunning Skiff:

 Illustration of a Battle Barge.  The ‘Protector’ was 50’ in length and outfitted with several cannons, with the largest ones firing 18 lbs cannonballs.

Additionally, there are two other types of vessels that I do feel should debut with the opening of the CA&DC.  One of these vessels is a replica of the ‘Protector,’ one of the battle-barges that was engaged in the ‘Battle of Kedges Straits.’  The second vessel that I recommend to be built is a replica of a gunning  skiff.   Both  of  these two vessels were outfitted with cannon, and the replicas can enhance the visitors experience by firing off blank loads.   

  A ‘Gunning Skiff,’ approximately 12’ in length.

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ATTRACTION –  Scaled Model of 1877 Crisfield with Model Train & Miniature Sailing Vessels:

Everybody loves a train set, and from maps, photos, land deeds and other records, a scaled and historically accurate model of Crisfield from 1877 can be built.  We know the exact type of train that came to Crisfield, so a working model can be operating within the exhibit.  

People – of all ages – gathered around a train set.

Everything from 9th St. to the Depot was originally water, and filled in with discarded oyster shells, so the exhibit will have finely-ground shells with planked walkways and bridges, makeshift structures built on poles above the water.  

An 1877 Map of Crisfield which would serve as a reference of scale for the working train set exhibit.

A 3-D polymer printer can easily make the buildings, miniature pungys and bugeyes, etc., that would be floating in the exhibit, as well as model steamboats that made regular trips between Crisfield and Baltimore.      

Photo of one of the original trains that ran to Crisfield.
Even though this photo was taken in the 20th century, and Crisfield had significantly increased its land area from 1877, it should help with visualizing what the exhibit will look like. 

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ATTRACTION – Living Watermen/Heritage Tours:  

In 2008 the State of MD began funding a program through the Dept. of Natural Resources to provide commercial watermen training and assistance to conduct nautical heritage tours.   The watermen can take up to six passengers at a time (more can be taken on USCG approved vessels), out to actually experience working the water by pulling a crab-scrape, fishing crab-pots and doing other watermen duties.  

This is an excellent idea and has the potential to be a lucrative enterprise, however, only a small percentage of watermen have engaged in this service and I don’t know of any locals who do it as a commercial enterprise.  With everything throughout the entire revitalization process, it will be a lot easier for locals to make change if someone, ‘shows them the money.’  

This photo captures how watermen can share their knowledge and culture with younger generations, as well as those of all ages.  Incidentally, the man on the right is Capt. Ed Charnock of Tangier Island, VA, center is his son and to the left is his granddaughter.  Capt. Ed was a highly respected watermen, he was lost at sea in 2017 when his boat went down in rough waters.  Heritage tours would help preserve his memory as well as the many others who have came before.

This initiative will require extensive planning, organizing, recruitment of watermen, marketing, booking, etc.  If the watermen tours are done independently, it will likely prove to be quite difficult in producing successful results.  However, if implemented along with – or even a part of – the CA&DC, the watermen will have the existing traffic and administrative assistance they need.  I have more information on nautical heritage tours that’s not included here.

Incidentally, the design of the CA&DC includes an area that’s identified as ‘Maritime Demos & Reenactments.’  Located in the rear of building, the area is accessible by boat where watermen can demonstrate their skills for visitors at the CA&DC.  Enclosed on three-sides, and covered overhead by the 3rd Floor Observation Deck, it will allow operations to continue during the winter months (more information will be provided in a later section).      

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