The History of the J. Millard Tawes Museum
For three years, the museum operated within the narrow scope of its mission statement. It successfully preserved the governor's memory through exhibits on his life and his contributions to the State of Maryland and to the nation. The museum also had meaningful exhibits on the governor's wife and Maryland's First Lady, Mrs. Avalynne Gibson Tawes.
In 1968, the Crisfield Museum closed its doors to the public. This museum was a small local historical museum located on West Main Street. Many of the artifacts displayed in this museum were transferred to the J. Millard Tawes Museum. Though the Tawes Museum gratefully accepted these precious artifacts, it had no thoroughly thought out plan on how to integrate these artifacts into its collections and exhibits. The institution went through a crisis trying to incorporate a greatly expanded mission into its on-going operations.
A five year development plan was created which, if implemented, would have aided the museum if its transition to a general historical museum. Because of personnel problems that included the resignation of the original museum director, this plan was only partially implemented. From 1990 until 1995, the museum lacked the personnel and financial resources to move forward. It also lacked a clear vision or conception of its true mission. Was the institution to solely concentrate on the legacy of Governor Tawes or was it to expand into a general historical museum?
Upon its formation, the J. Millard Tawes Foundation, Inc. began planning for the creation of a museum in honor of the governor. This proposed museum's mission was to preserve the governor's memorabilia, speeches and documents for viewing by the public and use by researchers interested in the dynamic history of the State of Maryland during the transitional years of the late 50's and early 60's. A building was erected, a staff selected and in 1983 the doors of the J. Millard Tawes Museum opened to the public.
In 1977, a group of Crisfield citizens and State of Maryland dignitaries formed an organization to explore ways to preserve the memory of Governor J. Millard Tawes. Governor Tawes was the 54th governor of the State of Maryland and a native son of the City of Crisfield. The group analyzed various idea and options and eventually settled on the option to form a foundation in the name of the former governor. This foundation was directed to establish a museum to preserve and display the governor's memorabilia. Accordingly, the J. Millard Tawes Foundation was formally incorporated under the laws of the State of Maryland in June, 1979.
Museum Opening in 1977
Things changed in 1995. At this time, the foundation's Board of Directors decided to take drastic action to break the status quo. In the summer of 1995, a plan was put in place to change the mission of the museum to become a general history museum concentrating on the Crisfield area. A major part of the revitalization plan was the complete restructuring of the exhibits. Patron evaluations indicated they wanted more information pertaining to the Bay, colonial times, the development of Crisfield, the oystering and crabbing industries and the watermen of the region. It was a major effort to restructure the exhibits and to consolidate the governor's exhibit.