The Chesapeake Bay has long been appreciated as one of the Middle Atlantic's prizes of nature - an area both beautiful to the tourist's eye and bountiful to the waterman's nets. The Bay has served to define the geographical and historical identity of the region - a place from which the lines of culture have traditionally been drawn. The Bay occupies a special place in the minds of Marylanders, who have come to define themselves, their foodways, and their ambivalence toward modern times in terms of the Bay and its people.
The waterman works alone in a world where silence prevails, and the heroics - real and fictive - exist chiefly in the stories told outside work. These stories, of bad weather, good captains, and great catches, serve to define the way of life the watermen share, and maintain the line between insiders and outsiders that circumscribes the folk group. Chesapeake Bay Traditions were presented in the Hall of Sea Life of the National Museum of Natural History and included storytelling and oral history, as well as demonstrations of sail making, boat building, tool making, decoy carving, bird painting, blacksmithing, net making, and model boat building.