We just closed the Museum for the season and will reopen our doors on April 2, 2019. But, before this year passes into history, we want to provide you with a brief summary.
2018 was a good year for the Watermen’s Museum. Our attendance was up. We welcomed quite a few new members. We worked closely with the County Tourism office and with nearly all the Yorktown businesses, committees, and museums on at least one, if not many, events and other activities. Our Cornwallis Shipwreck exhibit continues to be a huge success. We had a great fundraiser event at the Hornsby House. We are the recipients of a $5000 grant from Rotary International and the Yorktown Rotary Club, augmented by a grant from WestRock Corporation, to help us build an accessibility ramp for our Carriage House building – demolition of the old support system has already begun. We also were fortunate to receive program operations grants from York County, Yorktown Arts Foundation, Celebrate Yorktown Committee, WestRock Corporation, Rouse-Bottom Foundation, National Park Service, and others to conduct and expand our educational and community activities.
Our school field trip visits increased this year with many schools returning in force and also some first time field trip visits. Our summer camps were a big success with children immersed in hands-on learning activities throughout the summer. And, our educational support for advanced-learning students, disadvantaged students, and youth and adult special needs students continued at a strong pace.
We repaired two boats and nearly finished building a third boat. Speaking of boats, Hampton Roads Crane and Rigging provided man-hours and use of a heavy-lift crane to lift our 40-foot colonial replica gunboat hull from the beach to its new location in our Windmill exhibit lot. Thanks to many volunteers from the local community and our Coast Guard Training Center neighbors we were able to fix and paint some of our picket and other fences, paint the outside of three of our buildings, and remove the heavy lumber that the gunboat had been built upon from our beach.
We also were blessed by the donations by Rappahannock Concrete and C.A. Barrs Contractor, and the efforts of Chandler Landscaping, Yorktown Rotary Club, members of the Dive Rescue teams from York County and our surrounding neighbors, and our local Eagle Scouts. This group came together to excavate, level, and install a beautiful 35 x 30 foot stone patio that will host events for many years to come.
We also worked with York County, James City County, Newport News, and Hampton police and fire rescue dive teams on a couple of occasions by providing them with a location for classroom and shallow water diver training and certification. An added benefit of this public safety team training was that the divers used a few of the colonial shipwreck sites in their accident recovery training scenarios, providing us with new sonar and visual assessments on the condition of some of the colonial shipwrecks.
Finally, we were the recipients of three major awards. Coastal Virginia Magazine recognized us ‘Peninsula Gold’ for our summer camp program. Chesapeake Bay Magazine readers selected us a ‘Best Small Museum’ on the Chesapeake Bay. And, awarded at the end of this year, but actually for 2019, we have been selected again as one Virginia’s ‘Top Wedding Venues.’
It’s definitely been a fast-paced, great year. But, we’re not going to rest on our laurels. There is a lot more stuff to do.
We have already developed changes to our summer camps, adding at least two new camps to our current repertoire. And, we’re expanding our school field trip programs in at least two Counties. This expansion could result in nearly doubling the number of students our field trips support. We are also developing new signage and exhibits and supporting multi-media presentations to tell more about our Watermen’s history and stewardship of the Bay. We plan to offer more fun activities at our annual recurring events coupled with adding new events, such as a Seafood FunFest mid-way through the year. We will also complete our colonial replica gunboat exhibit and complete the construction of our Carriage House accessibility ramp. And, we have begun developing a traveling exhibit that will tour Chesapeake Bay maritime museums teaching about Bay Stewardship, Seafood growing and harvesting, and many other topics.
Of course, all of these listed items are only the highlights from 2018 and the major things we have planned for the upcoming new year. But, as you can see, our great little Museum is healthy and expanding continually to better meet the needs of our members, children’s education, and visitors from our local communities, across the nation, and around the world. If you haven’t already, stop by for a visit or, better yet, become a volunteer or a member. 2019 will truly be a wonderful and exciting year for all of us!