On the very first day of my internship at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, I went to ice cream with Kate (my supervisor), Marian (the folklorist), and Maura (the folklife intern). Both Kate and Marian are native Eastern Shore women, born and raised on the Chesapeake Bay, while Maura and I are from Pennsylvania and New York, respectively. As we settled into our cones, Kate turned to Marian and said, “We need to warn them about the come-heres and the from-heres.”
Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a very special place. Until the Bay Bridge opened in 1952, the Eastern Shore was largely isolated from the rest of the state. It is a traditional home of watermen and farmers, with small communities in which everyone knows everyone else, as they have for generations and the Bay largely providing a livelihood for its residents. Those born and raised on the Eastern Shore are the “from-heres.”
At the same time, the beautiful Chesapeake Bay area has become both a tourist destination and an area to which many people have chosen to retire. To these “come-heres,” the Bay is a recreation area, perfect for boating of all kinds, bicycling, and nature walks. The word “quaint” is often used to describe the small towns that dot the Eastern Shore, as in, “Well, isn’t this the quaintest little town.”
For the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, these are both important populations for the museum to serve, despite the inherent tensions between the two. The museum frames its mission comprehensively, allowing greater flexibility in doing so. But practically, the very terms “come-here” and “from-here” strike at an important point: credibility.
As a “come-here” myself, I worried a little about my role as an educator within the museum. While I am confident in my ability to teach nearly anything, would I have the credibility to successfully reach all types of visitors? After a month of interacting with and educating tourists, school groups, and day campers, I have found success using three key tactics.
Honesty: I am upfront that I am not from the Eastern Shore, but have great respect for the area.
Appreciation: This summer, I am a both a student and teacher of Chesapeake Bay culture. This dual role allows me to listen and learn, and then turn around share my new-found knowledge with visitors.
Relate it back: Cooperstown, NY is actually at the very top of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which starts at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. So while I am not from the Bay area, or the Eastern Shore, I can tie my life into the story of the Chesapeake.