The Lower Shore Traditions (LST) program at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art was founded in partnership with Maryland Traditions and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The program has broadened the reach of the Museum into the rich cultural landscape of the maritime, agricultural and marsh communities of the Delmarva Peninsula. Fieldwork conducted in these communities fuels exhibits, lectures, workshops, events, and publications and has formed the basis for partnerships with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Library of Congress American Folklife Center.
The variety of programming from LST engages audiences of all ages from the surrounding communities. Currently the Museum is launching Pass It On: Cultural Traditions of the Lower Eastern Shore, a K-12 Curriculum and Activity Guide, which addresses the heritage of the Lower Shore and presents meaningful ways for it to be incorporated into Maryland classrooms. The popular Delmarva Cooks program features regional cooks who carry on the traditions of the area through their foodways. Visitors learn the basics of preparation and the role these foods play in community life. Topics have included Smith Island cakes, roast duck and goose, and Chesapeake oysters. These classes are filmed and broadcast on the local cable stations. Exhibits presented by the LST program also emphasize community connections as part of their interpretive model. The Regional Carving Series showcases the work of decoy carvers currently working on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; oral histories and documentary photography is conducted at their workshops in advance of the exhibit. With an Access to Artistic Excellence grant from the NEA, the Ward Museum also works with regional arts organizations and master decoy makers to facilitate the training of aspiring carvers to create functional hunting decoys. The works of the master carvers and their students appear at the annual Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo, the Ward Museum’s fall waterfowling event.
In addition to serving a broad cross-section of the community and its visitors, the Ward Museum is committed to contributing to the scholarly study of folklore and folklife. As we continue to build an archive of documents, recordings, and photographs that may be used by interested community members and international scholars, we also identify local tradition bearers and collect ethnographic materials that enhance the Museum’s existing programs and generate ideas for new initiatives.