The Museum is located within close proximity to Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington DC, New York and New Jersey.
Interview With Jennifer Sim, Director of Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center

This interview was conducted by Selva Ozelli


Tell us about Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center.

The Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, Inc. is situated where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay. It tells the story of this region’s rich maritime heritage. Teeming with numerous species of flora and fauna and having highly navigable waters, this unique environmental setting has been the perfect backdrop for generations of inhabitants - from the earliest Native Americans over 10,000 years ago, to the first European colonists in the 1600’s, to today’s thriving community of the 21st century.  In 1782, the Marquis de Lafayette is said to have looked down over the town as he rode along the Post Road and commented that it was a charming “Havre de Grace” (pronounced "Haver-dee-Grayce"). 

The museum is a 10,000 square foot, three-story modern building, which includes two galleries on the main floor that also function as public and private event spaces. The ground floor supports a working boat shop as well as our Environmental Center, which houses an art gallery, indoor and outdoor classrooms and a research/teaching laboratory.

The Museum, a non-profit organization, was established in 1987 to help protect the rich cultural and natural heritage of the Lower Susquehanna River and the Upper Chesapeake Bay and maritime traditions for future generations by a historically-minded group of local citizens. We are within the Concord Point Heritage Corridor, which is Havre de Grace's historic district spanning five waterfront acres. We are also a designated attraction on the National Park Service's John Smith and Star Spangled Banner Trails, and have an exhibit designated by the National Park Service as a program on the Network to Freedom, which commemorates the heritage of the Underground Railroad. The Museum is located within close proximity to Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington DC, New York and New Jersey.

What is the significance of Chesapeake Bay?

The Chesapeake Bay is a National Treasure. Its 64,000-square-mile watershed encompasses one of the most economically significant regions of the United States. It is protected by the landmark Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement (adopted in 2014, amended in 2020) that calls for, among other things, conservation and restoration of the treasured water, sea and landscapes with participation from six states - New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

What is your museum’s mission?

To collect, document, preserve, and interpret the historical maritime skills, culture, heritage, and environment of the Lower Susquehanna River, Upper Chesapeake Bay region, and their watersheds.

The Havre de Grace Maritime Museum performs its mission through educating the public with permanent and temporary exhibits and interactive programming. We hold maritime themed activities and events which are open to the public, such as children’s programming, adult lectures, and educational classes. We host group tours of all types, from school children on field trips to senior citizens. One of our most popular events is The Chesapeake Mermaid, which is a non-profit organization that educates children about the environment and the Chesapeake Bay through a delightful mermaid themed theatrical show.

Tell us about your museum’s programing for United Nations Migratory Bird Days during 2023.

Our planet is 71% water, supporting every ecosystem imaginable. Water is life. It doesn’t matter what other elements you have; nothing survives without water for long. Water is fundamental to life on our planet. Virtually all migratory birds rely on water and the associated habitats at some point during their life cycles. Lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, wetlands, and coastal waters are all vital for feeding, drinking, or nesting, and as places to rest and refuel during long seasonal migrations.

Unfortunately, these aquatic ecosystems are becoming increasingly threatened around the world, and so are the migratory birds that depend on them. The increasing human demand for water, as well as pollution and climate change, are having a direct impact on the availability of clean water and the conservation status of many plants, fish and migratory birds. As the unpredictable effects of climate change march on across the world around us, each and every one of these species faces a greater challenge than ever before. The warming of our earth is having an impact on biodiversity which is key to the stability of the ecosystems such as forests, rivers, grasslands, fish, coral reefs, and birds that we rely on for ecosystem services – food, arable land, clean air and water. Losing species is the same as taking bricks out of a wall, one by one – eventually, the wall will collapse, the ecosystem will die. To humanity, the collapse of ecosystems means loss of fisheries, fertile land and drinkable water. This will impact the cyclical nature of bird migration with varying migration periods in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Our museum is located at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, where the Susquehanna River flows into the Bay. The Bay is a national treasure where over 41 million acres are connected through the waters that flow to it and through it. We see bald eagles, osprey, and blue herons nearly every day. This area is a hot spot for migratory birds passing through at different times of the year." Havre de Grace among other biodiversity treasures is a year round bird sanctuary. There are Cerulean Warbler in spring and summer, Yellow-throated, Kentucky, and Prothonotary Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, and Warbling Vireo, and terns and gulls in vast numbers. As fall edges toward winter, there is a steady influx of Bald Eagles. Migrants in September when Climate Week New York and Auckland Climate Festival take place include warblers, Chipping Sparrow, thrushes, flycatchers, woodpeckers, Ovenbird, Eastern Wood Pewee, Carolina Wren, Indigo Bunting, Red eyed and Yellow Throated Vireos, Red Tailed Hawk, Night Herons, and Great Blue Herons.

In 2023, the importance of water is the focus of World Migratory Bird Day, an annual global campaign that celebrates the migration of birds across countries and continents. Throughout the year, our museum is pleased to spread the message that “water sustains bird life” by exhibiting award winning artists Gunsu Saracoglu and Fatma Kadir's art shows during World Migratory Bird Days which took place on May 13th, and will again on October 14th during 2023.

Gunsu Saracoglu, Rebirth of Water Birds

Fatma Kadir, Water Bird Watching

Tell us about your museum’s programing for International Day for Biological Diversity.

Biodiversity is essential to the existence and proper functioning of all ecosystems, and provides the pillars upon which we build civilizations. Without nature, we have nothing. The loss of nature and biodiversity, which is the fourth most severe threat we face in the next 10 years, comes with a steep cost. More than 1 million species are now threatened with extinction, according to the United Nations. This decline is being fueled by human activity, with research by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature showing that human activity in the fields of food production, infrastructure, energy and mining accounts for 79% of the impact on threatened species.

This year’s International Day for Biological Diversity campaign, which began on May 22nd, exhibited the theme of "From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity.” As part of the United Nations campaign, our museum exhibited award-winning artists Mehmet Kuran and Ilhan Saying to draw attention to building back the Earth, Sky and Seas of our world. 

Mehmet Kuran, Nowhere

Ilhan Sayin, Flowers of Hope

Tell us about your museum’s programming for World Museum Day and World Wetlands Day.

This year’s theme for World Museum Day, held on May 18th was, “Museum, Sustainability and Well-being.” It focused on the importance of the environment, health and well-being in everyday life, and how museums can contribute to these aspects as cultural institutions. Museums can play a key role in promoting sustainability and well-being, by implementing initiatives that encourage environmental responsibility, health and well-being for visitors and staff.  

Award winning artist Selva Ozelli, whose work is cataloged by the United Nations, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum and the Berlin University of Art as part of the project titled Climate Summit Art and Political Event, 1972 – 2022, prepared art shows for this day. Selva also  prepared the Healing Waters art show for our museum which celebrates the Darter Fish, which is the only animal unique to Maryland. The Darter fish, which was discovered in 1912 in Swan Creek near Havre de Grace by two biologists, has been declared an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

Selva Ozelli, Healing Waters

Over the past 200 years, wetlands have been drained to make way for farmland or infrastructure development. Roughly 35% of all wetlands globally disappeared between 1970 and 2015, and the rate of loss has been accelerating since the year 2000.  Depending on the amount of climate related sea level rise, some 20 to 90% of current coastal wetlands could be gone by the end of the century, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  

Wetlands, estuaries and river deltas have suffered more biodiversity loss than other land and marine ecosystems and act as an early warning – a canary in the coalmine – that all is not well, from rising sea levels to invasive species, to climate exchange, excess water pollution from fertilizing lawns, gardens, farms, exhaust from automobiles, wastewater, septic systems, and stormwater runoff. The Darter Fish are the canary in the coalmine alerting us that our waters are polluted.

The aim is that we clean the Chesapeake Bay so the Darter Fish which got its name for its tendency to move between spots in short bursts of motion, can dart around in the waters of Chesapeake Bay again.  

Healing Waters will be World Wetlands Day event through the end of 2024:

Tell us about your museum’s participation in London Climate Week, Climate Week New York, Florida Climate Week and United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) this year.

This year the museum is pleased to exhibit award winning artists Selva Ozelli, Fatma Kadir, Gunsu Saracoglu, Ilhan Sayin and Mehmet Sinan Kuran's art shows at London Climate Week, Climate Week New York, Florida Climate Week and United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) that draw attention to the fact that healing in the oceans have begun with Nations agreeing to develop a legally binding agreement on reducing plastic pollution by 2024. And also agreeing on the historic High Seas Treaty to place 30% of the world's oceans into protected areas by 2030 per the UN biodiversity conference COP15. With these art shows, the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center intends to link London Climate Actions Week, New York Climate Week, Florida Climate Week and COP28 through art shows across the world.

The museum is pleased that the United Nations General Assembly Guide included the museum’s programming this year:

Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center Art Shows for London Climate Action Week

Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center Art Shows for Climate Week New York

Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center Art Shows for Florida Climate Week

How can people reach you?

Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center
100 Lafayette St, Havre De Grace, MD 21078
[email protected]


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