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Press Releases

Thursday, March 18, 1999

Smith Island Exhibit Opens April 2 in Atrium Gallery

SALISBURY, MD-- The Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury State University will sponsor an exhibition of over 30 photographs titled "Smith Island Life" in the Atrium Gallery in the Guerrieri University Center on campus from April 2-May 21. Admission is free and the public is invited.

These carefully reproduced duplicates are taken from originals gathered over many years by Jim Bradshaw, a former resident of Smith Island now living in San Diego, CA, and Gail Walczyk of New York whose family roots can be traced to the island. Also included are scenic views taken by Meggan Heindrichs of Long Island.

The photographs are a visual record of the beauty of Smith Island as well as the simplicity of lifestyle of the people who inhabited it. Many of the images are of families, school-mates and individuals; others bear the likeness of unknowns. Some photos show the oyster boat ports by which the islanders provided for themselves. "Whether the picture is a school house, a harbor scene, or children outside at play, they all portray a charming, traditional lifestyle offered by the secluded island community," said Rebecca Miller, director of the Nabb Center.

"This is an opportunity for the public to see a picture of current and past life there. Smith Island represents the way we all were. Everyone on Smith Island and everyone in America. It is a window into everyoneâs past," she added.

In 1608 John Smith discovered a group of islands while exploring the Chesapeake, and named them the "Russel Isles," for the shipâs doctor who cared for him while sick. The islands consisted of what we today call Smith, Tangier and Watts islands.

At one point in history, Virginiaâs records referred to all islands south of the Maryland/Virginia border as the Tangier Islands. These included Shanks, Old Walnut Island, Piney Island, Queenâs Ridge, Horse Hummock, South Point and Hog Neck, the latter three being attached to the lower part of Smith Island. After 1880 and much erosion, the islands diminished and their inhabitants moved to Crisfield, MD, Onancock, VA, Tangier Island or Smith Island itself.

As time passed, Smith Islandâs population grew considerably. All shore communities around the island began to rely more on the water for their livelihood, as the demand for oysters in large city and overseas markets increased. Upon construction of the railroad in Crisfield in 1866 and the arrival of the motorboat, the time needed to get oysters to market was shortened and the Chesapeake crab became a viable commodity.

"Smith Island was where all the ships would stop instead of going to shore," said Miller. "It was the crossroads of the area."

The Atrium Gallery is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 a.m., and Saturday-Sunday, noon-4 p.m. For more information regarding "Smith Island Life" call 410-543-6271.

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