For an exhibit that explains how food goes from the Chesapeake Bay to dining room tables, it’s fitting Sarah Linden-Brooks described its long-awaited opening to a restaurant’s unveiling.
“Essentially what we are looking at is a soft-opening,” Linden-Brooks, a Thomas Nelson history professor who spearheaded the project, said of the Bay to Belly exhibit at the Watermen’s Museum on the York River waterfront in Yorktown. “The exhibit will be open, it will be completed in its entirety. However, there won’t be a celebration kick-starting the exhibit.”
Linden-Brooks said she was hoping to invite people from sponsoring organizations to a large public event, but that’s not possible because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the Thomas Nelson faculty and students involved in the project have been invited to a much smaller gathering at the museum Dec. 5 from 3-4:30 p.m., and then the exhibit will remain open through Dec. 23.
The original plan was for the exhibit, which was produced by Linden-Brooks, fellow Thomas Nelson professor Randie Trestrail and three of their students in conjunction with the Watermen’s Museum, to open in the spring. There is a traveling component that can be taken to schools and libraries. Linden-Brooks is optimistic that still will happen.
“That’s the intention, yes,” she said. “At this point, obviously, that’s a little bit put on hold just because a lot of libraries and schools are not open to the public right now. So it is our goal that in 2021, it will travel throughout the Chesapeake region.”
She said officials from the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Md., are interested displaying the exhibit.
“We know it will travel both throughout the southern bay as well as it should travel to locations in Maryland also,” she said.
There also are discussions to bring it to Thomas Nelson’s campus, but that is contingent on the College re-opening to students.
The students involved were Sophia Lancione, who now is in art school at VCU; Kathryn Pellar, who is no longer at Thomas Nelson; and Simone Stokes, who is a current Thomas Nelson student.
Lancione worked with Trestrail on the project’s graphic design. Pellar wrote the script, did research for the introductory video and reviewed the museum’s oral histories. Stokes edited the introductory video and worked on the project’s oral histories.
Steve Ormsby, the president of the Watermen’s Museum, and Mike Steen, the museum’s director of education, provided educational expertise.
“We’re excited to have the project come to fruition and to have all of the aspects completed and open to the public,” Linden-Brooks said.
While there is disappointment in the delays, Linden-Brooks said the overall goal of the project hasn’t suffered.
“We are still confident that when … we can resume our normal activities, that the exhibit will still get to travel throughout the Chesapeake region and have a large audience,” she said, adding she hopes visitors learn more about the Chesapeake Bay identity and the impacts they have as an individual on the environment and on the bay.
She said it’s a wonderful example of work being done by Thomas Nelson students.
“Our biggest thing is to get people out there to see what our students did. The research and graphic design work that they did is quite impressive,” she said.
You can learn more about the project by going to its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BaytoBelly.
The Watermen’s Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. It is closed Monday. The admission costs are $5 for seniors (62 and older), and $4 for students and groups of 10 or more. Museum members, active duty military, first-responders, teachers and children under 6 are admitted free.
The project was made possible by corporate sponsorships and donations, grants and assistance from Virginia Humanities, the Thomas Nelson Educational Foundation, Hampton Roads Sanitation District, and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, as well as private donations.