The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art

Located nestled next to Schumaker Pond, The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art Salisbury MD is home to the world’s largest collection of wildfowl carvings. Founded in 1975, the museum celebrates its namesakes and the evolution of decoy-making from traditional working tools to decorative art. You’ll be glad you read this!

Since an HVAC system failure caused surface mold to appear on some artwork, questions have been raised about the museum’s future.

The History

Founded in 1968, the Ward Museum celebrates the work of two brothers from Crisfield who transformed bird decoys from utilitarian hunting tools to works of art. The museum’s galleries feature both contemporary and historic decoys, as well as a workshop where the Ward brothers worked.

The site also features scenic nature trails that wind through the picturesque grounds and pond next to the museum. The museum hosts the annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival each April, bringing together carvers and collectors from around the globe to celebrate the heritage of waterfowl and its impact on human culture.

SU has consulted with Wicomico County residents who have strong ties to the museum about its plans to relocate the collection to the Powell Building, located near SU Downtown and is exploring alternative space within Salisbury to continue the program. These efforts are ongoing.

The Collection

The museum’s collection is world-renowned and includes art by the pioneer decoy makers Lem and Stephen Ward. Their artistry turned bird decoys from utilitarian hunting tools to expressive wildfowl sculptures. The gallery at the museum focuses on their work and features their carvings, as well as the works of other artists.

Visitors often comment that walking through the galleries of The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art feels like being surrounded by real wildlife – the carvings are so realistic. The museum is a major tourist attraction on the Eastern Shore.

The Museum and its collection are owned through a gift/purchase agreement between the Ward Foundation and Salisbury University in 2000. SU plans to relocate the gallery to a new space in downtown Salisbury, and the University is exploring ways to showcase the collection on campus if possible. Some members of the community are questioning SU’s decision and lack of transparency regarding the plan. One of those is John Juriga, a Ward Foundation member, and longtime volunteer who is critical of the University’s handling of the issue. Here is another spot to visit.

The Exhibits

Nestled next to Schumaker Pond, the museum showcases the world’s largest and finest public collection of decorative and antique decoys. The collection includes art sculptures and working decoys used by hunters and celebrates the legacy of master carvers Lem and Steve Ward of Crisfield.

The HVAC failure that closed the gallery spaces didn’t impact areas of the building that remain available for educational activities and venue rentals. Classes for students and community members continued, including environmental field trips for Wicomico County public schools.

The move to downtown Salisbury will enable the museum to continue its work and connect with the local community. SU said the Powell Building’s proximity to SU Downtown will allow the university to offer support services and through a pre-existing agreement with the city, parking for museum visitors will be free in the city lot adjacent to the building. SU will also provide security and IT support to the facility. The move will be completed this summer.

The Events

Browse the world’s largest collection of intriguing bird sculptures that range from art to hunting decoys. The galleries are surrounded by serene grounds that border Schumaker Pond and nature trails lined with bronze avian sculptures.

Classrooms within the museum were unaffected by the HVAC failure and education programs continue to run, including environmental field trips for Wicomico County public schools. Additionally, community classes teach elements of heritage like songbird carving and old-fashioned cigar box guitar making.

While the Ward Foundation is exploring alternative venues, there’s no word yet on where the museum will be relocated to. Some have expressed frustration with a lack of transparency and alleged dishonesty by SU administrators. A petition calling on SU to save the museum garnered thousands of signatures. Next blog post.


Driving directions from Pocomoke River State Park: Shad Landing to The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art

Driving directions from Pocomoke River State Park: Shad Landing to Trap Pond State Park



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