Our History

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The Museum was founded in 1990 as the Eastport Historical Committee; in 2000, the scope was expanded to cover all of Annapolis. The Museum Campus is the site of the last historic oyster packing plant in the area, the McNasby Oyster Company. The McNasby building was severely damaged by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. In December 2008, the Museum re-opened the newly restored McNasby’s building and today provides the Annapolis area with a waterfront educational facility, an exhibition gallery, and an assembly hall that is in daily use for classes, history and heritage programs, lectures, concerts, and community and business meetings.

A Brief History of Maritime Annapolis

When the first English settlers arrived in Annapolis in 1649, they found the pristine Chesapeake Bay and a Native American population that had been living from the bounty of the Bay for centuries.

From their small, hand-built boats, the first Europeans gathered oysters, caught fish and crabs, and grew their own crops to feed their growing families. They also grew tobacco for trade. In these early days, growing “sot-weed” was the way the wealthiest Annapolitans made their money.

Port of Call

Founded in 1695, Annapolis became an important port for shipping barrels of tobacco to England. Sailing ships returned from across the Atlantic Ocean and up the Bay to Annapolis Harbor with an amazing assortment of goods for sale. Some ships also brought slaves, like the one in 1767 that brought a man from Africa named Kunta Kinte.

After the Revolutionary War, the smaller, shallower Annapolis Harbor gradually lost most of its shipping business to the growing Port of Baltimore. The large, ocean-sailing ships that once packed Annapolis Harbor were replaced by smaller boats that were used to harvest oysters, crabs, and fish in the shallow waters of the Chesapeake.

Oysters were the biggest money-maker from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Watermen gathered oysters with dredges and long-handled shaft tongs and brought their catch to one of the many oyster packing plants surrounding the harbor. Men and women, and sometimes even children, shucked the oysters and packed them in cans. Packing allows oysters to last longer, so they could be shipped by railroads and steamships to as far away as the Rocky Mountains.

Boatwrights and craftsmen worked in boatyards surrounding the local creeks to build and repair boats for watermen. Many of these were located on the Eastport peninsula, across the harbor from Annapolis proper. Earlier on, the little peninsula was devoted to farms for raising crops and racehorses. Founded in 1868, most of the working residents, both black and white, made their living from the seafood industry, in the boatyards, or at the Naval Academy.

A Love of Sailing

During World War II, boats were built in Eastport for the British and Russian navies. Later, the Trumpy family built world-renowned luxury yachts there. As the oyster business ebbed, the watermen’s workboats were replaced by sailboats and powerboats used for having fun out on the Bay.

Trumpy Yacht: The Freedom

Trumpy Yacht: Freedom

Known as “America’s Sailing Capital,” Annapolis hosts major national and international sailing events and the harbor is filled with vessels of all sizes and shapes year-round. Tour boats and boat rentals provide opportunities for families without boats to spend a day on the water. Water taxis are a fun way to get a boat ride across the Harbor. Telling stories of the Chesapeake Bay explains the history of Annapolis. The Annapolis Maritime Museum tells the story of our connection to the water.

Historical Photos

AMM Historical Timeline

  • Eastport facility opens for business.


  • Changing Hands

    William Joseph McNasby, Jr., gives the Eastport building to his friends John W. and Mary Lou Turner.

  • Eastport Historical Committee

    The Annapolis Maritime Museum was founded originally as the Eastport Historical Committee. The City of Annapolis had purchased the property on Back Creek that included the small barge house in addition to the McNasby building. The small barge house was designated as a museum by the mayor and became known as The Barge House Museum.

  • City Park

    John Turner sells the business to H.L.P., Inc., which intended to tear down the structure and replace it with a waterfront condo. However, the City of Annapolis established a Maritime Zoning District to protect maritime businesses from development pressure and purchased the property from H.L.P with help from the State of Maryland.

  • A New Mission

    The Committee was officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization with a specific mission: to compile and preserve the maritime, commercial, architectural, and industrial history of Eastport.

  • A New Name

    By the end of 2000 the committee officially adopted a new name: the “Annapolis Maritime Museum.”

  • Expansion

    The McNasby Oyster House – some parts of which date back to 1918 – became part of the Museum campus.

  • Devastation – Hurricane Isabel

    The Museum’s campus suffered severe damage during Hurricane Isabel. Despite this setback, the Board of Directors, the staff, and volunteers all devoted themselves to continuing AMM’s mission and set a course toward rebuilding the Museum as a world-class center for preserving and teaching the maritime heritage.

  • An Amazing Opportunity

    The U.S. Coast Guard passes on the ownership of Annapolis’ most famous site, the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. The City of Annapolis took possession of the Lighthouse in partnership with the Annapolis Maritime Museum and the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.

  • Environmental Education

    The Education Center at the Annapolis Maritime Museum offers environmental education programs to 300 students at Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

  • A New Beginning

    The McNasby Oyster Company renovation is completed. It is now a museum, gallery, educational center, and community meeting space.

  • Community Events

    The Museum holds the first annual Oyster Roast and Sock Burning on the Museum’s campus.

  • Living Shoreline

    With the help of the Department of Natural Resources, AMM installs a living shoreline on the site of the McNasby Oyster Company.

  • New Opportunities for Education

    The Museum acquires the Ellen O. Moyer Back Creek Nature Park which will become the Annapolis Maritime Museum Education Center. Expansion of the AMM education program will focus on existing outdoor exhibits residing at the Ellen O. Moyer Back Creek Nature Park and will place the Museum in a stronger position to fulfill its mission…

  • Skipjack Purchase and Box of Rain Merge

    The Museum purchases the skipjack, Wilma Lee, from the nonprofit Ocracoke Alive to strengthen the mission of the Museum to preserve the maritime heritage of the Chesapeake Bay region. The Box of Rain program merged with AMM, a program focused on serving youth in public housing.

  • Skipjack Launch

    After over a year of restorations, AMM launched Wilma Lee’s educational programming, award-winning heritage cruises, and special event charters.

  • New Permanent Exhibit Opens

    AMM’s new permanent exhibit, Our Changing Waterfront, opens in the spring and focuses on three thematic sections: Bay Health, Oyster Economy and Annapolis Waters. Interactives invite visitors to learn, play, and experience the maritime history and ecology of the Chesapeake Bay.

Annapolis Maritime Museum Awards

  • 1998 Historic Annapolis Foundation Community Award for Volunteers
  • 1998 Historic Annapolis Foundation Community Award
  • 1998 Maryland Historical Trust Educational Excellence Award
  • 1999 Annapolis Preservation Trust Certificate of Appreciation
  • 2000 Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network Gateways Site Destination
  • 2001 Greenscape Organization Volunteer Award
  • 2001 Maryland Historical Trust Preservation Service Award
  • 2003 Historic Annapolis Foundation Preservation Award
  • 2004 Heritage Program Award from the Four Rivers Heritage
  • 2004 Best New Heritage Initiative from the Four Rivers Heritage Area
  • 2005 Interpretive Product Award from the Four Rivers Heritage Area
  • 2005 Heritage Event Award from the Four Rivers Heritage Area for the Museum’s Maritime Market Days
  • 2010 Heritage Tourism Product Award from the Four Rivers Heritage Area
  • 2015 Stewardship Award from the Four Rivers Heritage Area for the Museum’s Oyster Education Partnership
  • 2018 Public/Private Partnership of the Year Award (Four Rivers Heritage Area)
  • 2020 Heritage Tourism Product Award from the Four Rivers Heritage Area for the Skipjack Wilma Lee
  • 2021 Preservation Award from Historic Annapolis for Creative Maritime Heritage Programming aboard the Skipjack Wilma Lee
  • 2021 Heritage Tourism Product Award from the Four Rivers Heritage Area for the exhibit Our Changing Waterfront