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VMNH exhibit brings Chesapeake Bay inland
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Zach Ryder, marketing and public relations manager at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, points to animals on display as part of “Living on the Water.” The exhibit will open Saturday with a day-long festival of the same title. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Friday, July 25, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The nation’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, is the focus of the Virginia Museum of Natural History’s newest exhibit.

“Living on the Water” opens Saturday, coinciding with a day-long festival of the same title, and will run through next July 26.

The “Living on the Water Festival” will feature sandcastle building contests, a dunking booth and water-related games, relay races and crafts.

A “sandscaping” expert, Alan Matsumoto, will create a large-scale marine sculpture that will be on display at the museum.

Also, visitors can examine a variety of boats that Angler’s Choice will have on display, as well as learn from Dan River Basin Association representative Brian Williams how Duke Energy’s recent coal ash spill along the river is affecting the area.

The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum on Starling Avenue.

An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water connecting with an ocean and having at least one river or stream flowing into it. More than 150 rivers and streams flow into the Chesapeake Bay, which has a drainage basin that covers parts of six states, including Virginia.

Yet Virginia and Maryland are the only states bordering the bay.

The exhibit relates the Chesapeake’s history with emphasis on how people have used it for drinking water, transportation, recreation, jobs and more.

It also points out lingering effects of people’s use of the bay and ongoing efforts to improve its environmental conditions.

Despite the focus on the bay, the exhibit “gives people a broad sense” of how water is used in life generally and the effects on the environment, said museum Marketing and Public Relations Manager Zach Ryder.

Development along the bay, as well as natural forces such as storms, floods, droughts and shore erosion, have altered the speed of natural processes that gradually change the bay’s environment over many years, the exhibit shows.

It mentions that such alterations sometimes benefit the bay and sometimes they do not.

More than 17 million people live within the Chesapeake’s watershed, and thousands more visit the bay annually for recreation, the exhibit notes.

Amid the human impact, government and private sources have undertaken efforts to preserve the bay’s environment, according to the exhibit.

A highlight of the exhibit is a large, sink-like table having a recycling water stream and filled with multicolored sand that looks like ice cream sprinkles. The water flow takes with it grains of sand, showing how erosion occurs at the bay over many years. It also shows how dams can be formed and then destroyed, said VMNH Collections and Research Director Jim Beard.

The exhibit includes a variety of historical items, such as guns and other hunting and gathering tools, once used in daily life along the bay.

It also includes mounts of birds, mammals and marine animals found on the bay and models of boats, ships and other vessels used on the water for pleasure and work, such as catching crabs that are sold for food.

“The model ships are pretty,” Ryder said. He predicted that “a lot of people will come just to see them.”

Regular museum admission prices apply for both the festival and entry to the museum on Saturday.


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