About The Watermen’s Museum
| Mission Statement |
To preserve the heritage of the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay.
Interpret their culture and their contribution to the region.
To provide and support educational opportunities.
To preserve and enhance the environment of the Chesapeake Bay.
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The Watermen's Museum is a private non-profit museum located on the York River in historic Yorktown, VA. It was founded in 1981 as a part of the 200th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Yorktown. In October of 1781, American and French forces were fighting the British in the final battle of the Revolutionary War. Local watermen aided the French fleet, acting as pilots for their ships as they traveled our waterways. Much to the humiliation of the British, the French and American forces trapped the British army, at least in part because of the upper hand given to the French fleet aided by those knowledgeable pilots, keeping the British navy at bay.
The importance of watermen in our local economy neither began nor ended in the eighteenth century. The term 'waterman' is an ancient one, and is only used on the Thames River in England and on the Chesapeake Bay, and refers to those who make their living on the water. Nowadays, it is used in reference to those involved in the harvesting fish and shellfish, people whom other areas of the country would call commercial fishermen. Traditionally, however, the term was also used for buy-boat workers, ferrymen, boat and ship pilots, and any others whose occupations took them on the water year round.
The original Museum was located in a small brick building (which was used as a Gift Shop until Hurricane Isabel) on a piece of riverfront property donated by Mrs. Bowditch. In 1986, Mr. and Mrs. Kubicki (Bob and Jan) donated the existing museum building and several smaller out buildings which were located on the opposite shore of the York River, on condition that Mrs. Bowditch would raise the funds necessary to move them across the River to their present location. Marian and her friends raised the funds and the buildings were moved in 1987. After much work and renovation, the existing Museum, with about 2,200 sq. ft. of exhibit space, was opened in 1989 and the original building was converted into a Gift Shop which became one of the best of its kind in the entire area.
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Principals and Directors - David H. Niebuhr, Ph.D. – Executive Director
Dr. David H. Niebuhr is the Executive Director of the Watermen’s Museum. He earned his Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in 1999. Prior to his current position, Dr. Niebuhr was the Vice President of the Education Division at Mote Marine Laboratory. He has experience as an Assistant Professor of Science Education at and the College of William and Mary where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in science teaching methods to elementary and secondary level pre-service teachers. Dr. Niebuhr's museum experience includes more than 20 years experience at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He has a broad background as an educator having worked as a high school teacher, a college professor, and as a field-based educator.
Dr. Niebuhr is known for his enthusiastic and engaging style with his students and subject matter. Dr. Niebuhr was one of the architects of the NOAA NERRS Coastal Training Initiative, resulting in a doubling of Federal appropriation for the NERRS program. His reputation as a teacher lead him to be selected to develop and teach science education programs as part of a joint US-China program sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Dr. Niebuhr is a physical biologist and biochemist whose work in curriculum development has received national recognition, including an internet-based project with WHRO Telecommunications that was featured in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Annual Report. He has lead several curriculum development projects for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has authored several chapters of introductory science textbooks, and currently serves as the Chair of the Editorial Board for Current: The Journal of Marine Education.
Comments from Our President
"The Chesapeake Bay plays a vital role in our lives and culture. For more than 25 years, the Watermen’s Museum has shared the stories of the men and women who have worked the water piloting ships, ferrying goods and people, and fishing for our delicious seafood.
Our Museum is a vibrant community and members often meet for programs and fun along the shores of the York River. Please join us and become a part of our coastal heritage. "
Comments from Our Executive Director
"It’s a great time to be a member of the Watermen’s Museum. The Museum has continued to expand programs and exhibits over the past few months.
In addition to our popular TGIF events, we’ve created new family programs, Pirate Camp, school programs for K-12 students, and programs for students with special educational needs.
Our boat shop is quickly becoming a beehive of activity, with one historic boat completed and four new boats on the stocks.
Future projects include the development of a land-based sail training boat, evening education and entertainments programs, and increased opportunities to learn about lives along the Chesapeake Bay.
Come on down and join us!"
Supporting the Watermens Museum
The Watermen’s Museum is a small, efficient organization. Through volunteer support, leveraging resources, and combining fee-based programs with free programming the Museum is able to reach large numbers of visitors with a small budget. Yet, despite our frugality, we still need funds to help maintain this waterfront treasure.
Please consider a cash donation to support scholarships, the boat-building program, special needs educational programming, environmental programming, landscaping, and other important needs.
Contact David Niebuhr, at 887-2641, to discuss our programs and how you may best support them.
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