Located just outside the entrance to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Maddox blvd, The Museum of Chincoteague’s stated mission is to collect and preserve the material culture that reflects the historical progression of the life on Chincoteague Island.
And it’s not all just ponies, I can tell you.
The islands of Chincoteague and Assateague have a history that is the stuff of seafaring legend, complete with shipwrecks and strandings that belie the peaceful and friendly faces the islands now present to visitors.
Take, for example, the January 1650 stranding of Colonel Henry Norwood by his crew on the north shore of Assateague Island. Colonel Norwood and some of his men came ashore in search of food, water, and safe harbor in which they could repair their storm-damaged ship – but the crew remaining onboard got cold feet and scarpered, marooning Norwood’s party to the island’s wilds. Norwood survived to write of the ordeal in his book “A Voyage to Virginia,” a survival ensured in part because of the oysters of Assateague.
And what oysters! Chincoteague Bay’s waters have long been known for her amazing oysters and the Chincoteague oyster industry.
Oysters were such an essential part of Chincoteague Island’s early economy that, during the Civil War, Chincoteague broke with Virginia to remain part of the Union in order to prevent a blockade that would have stopped their oysters from shipping North.
The Museum of Chincoteague contains exhibits outlining these histories, plus others. Check out the original Fresnel lens from the Assateague Island Lighthouse, responsible for guiding ships as far as 23 miles from shore to safety between 1865 and 1961. There’s an aquarium, too, and don’t miss the fascinating collection of discarded items turned into homes by larval oysters! Plus an archive of historical photographs, a collection of shells from all around the world, an exhibit on Marguerite Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague,” and much more.
The Museum of Chincoteague
The museum is open 11am to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor day, then Friday through Sunday between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. For more details, please visit chincoteaguemuseum.com