Permanent Exhibits

The Ward Museum, with the help of Moonshell Productions, has created videos that provide brief overviews of the museum as well as its galleries and nature trail.  To view the entire playlist (22:03), press the play button on the embedded playlist.  To view each video independently, click on the links in each exhibit.

Henry A. Fleckenstein Jr. Decoy Study Gallery

In honor of Henry Fleckenstein’s years of service to the decoy collecting community, the Ward Museum and the Fleckenstein family are pleased to announce plans for the Henry A. Fleckenstein, Jr. Decoy Study Gallery.

Since the museum opened in its current location in 1991 the Decoy Study Gallery has displayed the geographic range of antique working decoys. Large maps detailing the flyways along which millions of waterfowl migrate each year grace the back walls, and cases displaying decoys made in corresponding regions anchor the room. Smaller display areas with changing exhibits highlight different aspects of the world of antique decoys and hunting culture in the early-20th century—for example exhibits of international decoys, antique duck calls, or the hunting camps that supported carvers and provided enjoyment for turn-of-the-century hunters.

In advance of the Henry A. Fleckenstein Decoy Study Gallery dedication the gallery will enjoy many improvements. Cosmetic repairs have already begun, and more substantial changes are now underway. In honor of Henry’s passion for knowledge of decoy carving and collecting, a new study nook will be installed in the gallery. A reading desk area will feature books Henry authored, as well as resources and information about historical carvers whose antique decoys fill the displays. Visitors can relax and take time to come to understand the antique decoys that surround them, and appreciate the natural environments and heritage that supported featured carvers, and continues today. Henry’s legacy will truly be one of education and appreciation of the art-form and culture he shared with the world.

In the mid-1960s, after a particularly bad storm, Henry A. Fleckenstein (1940 – 2014) came upon an old working Canvasback decoy washed up on the shores of Kent Island, MD. This lost decoy became the first of his new collection—the beginning of Henry’s lifetime passion for old decoys and their makers.

Henry would spend the rest of his life collecting decoys, examining them, re-examining them, researching them, and talking with anybody who knew even a small fact about a bird, its maker, or its owner. Remarkably, Henry never forgot a decoy once he handled it; he was known to recall the details of specific decoys that he had not seen for many years.

Henry left the corporate world in 1974 to pursue his quest full time on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, settling in Dorchester County. In addition to collecting and selling decoys he wrote articles for decoy magazines, lectured, and attended decoy shows.

Eventually Henry authored five books on decoys, which quickly became highly revered references that stand out to this day. These were just the tip of the iceberg of his decoy knowledge.

Henry Fleckenstein had an unusual instinct to recognize each carver’s work through the evolution of their styles, just as an art connoisseur sees the changes and periods of any great artist. Yet he preferred to be called a “student” of the form and not an expert, though he ultimately gained the well-deserved title of “decoy historian.” Still, he never stopped seeking to know more, and he openly shared his knowledge with others. Because Henry Fleckenstein shared his vast knowledge with decoy collectors and admirers, the decoy collecting and carving community has benefited greatly, and many have become better students themselves.

The Ward Museum invites you to become a student of waterfowl art by utilizing this library and study space dedicated to Henry A. Fleckenstein.


The World Championship Gallery

The World Championship Gallery is the largest of the Museum’s galleries, featuring a high vaulted ceiling and showcasing contemporary carvings. Many of these are masterpieces from the museum’s premier event, the annual Ward World Championship Carving Competition. Each year a special showing unveils the current winners. In this gallery, carvings of eagles, swans, owls, geese, ducks, herons, and songbirds appear to come to life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ""I really enjoyed the historical context that the museum provided"-- Barbara--Shepherdstown, WV"

The Habitat Theater

The Habitat Theater provides a multidisciplinary setting unique for an art museum, featuring a children’s interactive puppet theater, a gallery space for student art, and educational wall panels. The space also houses much of the Ward Museum’s collection of flyers, which float invisibly above the heads of viewers. Visitors can also use the interactive kiosk, which features games and programs that explore bird calls, migration patterns, diet, and habitat.  The theater features a four part film series Voices From the Edge produced by David Harp and Tom Horton. These short films reveal the richness of the natural and cultural resources where land and water meet in the Chesapeake and Maryland Coastal Bays watershed, addressing their diversity and abundance but also exploring their vulnerability.  Click on each link below to view the videos in their entirety.

Habitat Theater

The Decoy Study Gallery

The Decoy Study Gallery identifies the major migratory flyways – Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific – and showcases the diverse decoy carving traditions of North America. The story is enhanced by the layout of study cases, each with many examples of decoys indigenous to each hunting region, allowing visitors to note the differences and similarities among decoys made in communities with different environmental conditions and aesthetic values.


Charley Harper’s Bird Extravaganza

Charley Harper’s highly stylized wildlife prints, posters, and book illustrations have captivated generations of viewers. Readers and art enthusiasts may know his work from The Giant Golden Book of BiologyFord Times, or any of the over 50 ecological and conservation posters he created for non-profit conservation groups, nature centers, zoos, U.S. national parks and monuments, and international wildlife sanctuaries and biosphere reserves.

The Ward Museum is excited to display a large collection of Charley Harper prints as part of Charley Harper’s Bird Extravaganza! This whimsical exhibit is sure to be fun for the whole family.

Harper Cardinal "Cardinal with Seed by Charlie Harper"

The Ward Brothers Workshop

The Ward Brothers Workshop features the carvings of Lemuel and Stephen Ward, tracing the development of their work and reproducing their barbershop studio.  Visit The Ward Brothers page to read more about Lem and Steve Ward.

Ward Brothers Workshop Gallery (4:14)

Beginning May 31, 2014 the new Ward Brothers film, “Nature’s Counterfeiters: Lem and Steve Ward,” will be playing in the gallery for visitors to enjoy. This film depicts the lives, legacy, and artwork of the Ward Brothers. To watch this film online please click the link below.

Nature’s Counterfeiters: Lem and Steve Ward


The Decoy in Time Gallery

The Decoy in Time Gallery is a reconstructed wetland environment complete with decoys, birds, hunting paraphernalia, morning mist, and even calling ducks.  With woodlands to one side and marsh one the other, the gallery tells the history of the use of the decoy by Native Americans, early settlers, market hunters, and sport and contemporary hunters.

Little boy looking at exhibit displays