The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art is nestled next to Schumaker Pond in Salisbury, Maryland. Surrounded by wildlife in the heart of the Atlantic Flyway, the Museum features the world's largest and finest public collection of decorative and antique decoys. The Museum was named in honor of Stephen and Lemuel Ward, whose vision and artistry in carving decoys pioneered the transition of the decoy from a working tool to an expressive wildfowl sculpture.
The Ward Museum is a cherished part of its local community on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and far beyond. Maintaining an international reputation for excellence through artworks that allow visitors a glimpse of the beauty of wildfowl from around the world has made the Ward Museum a prominent Maryland institution.
With members in all 50 states and 8 countries, the reach of this institution reflects the wide appeal and interest in an art form that reveals the interconnections of art, nature, and tradition. As wildfowl has been celebrated in art across continents and throughout human history, the museum collection showcases the contributions of artists who have carved birds both as tools for the hunt and as objects of artistic enjoyment.
With its 4.5 acre waterfront facility with 12,000 square feet of exhibition space, the museum is a major destination for tourists and a resource for local residents who enjoy its year-round offerings. With a staff of 17 professionals and a volunteer pool of over 200, the Ward Museum is a significant part of the local economy, community fabric, and the regional arts scene. Through educational programs and services, the museum serves 10,000 school children annually.
For nearly 40 years the Ward World Championship has gathered over 1,000 artists from around the globe in Ocean City, Maryland, for the largest bird carving competition in the world. Carvers from the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom make their annual pilgrimage to compete for a chance to win the coveted World Champion title, participate in the educational conference that enriches their talent, and immerse themselves in a celebration of wildfowl art.
The impact of this institution has grown dramatically from its origins as a grassroots effort to celebrate two exceptional bird carvers from Crisfield, Maryland whose talents were unmistakable. When one hears about the Ward Museum, he or she is part of an enduring celebration of the artistic, natural, and cultural legacy of these artists and the thousands of others who have captivated the world. You are invited to become a part of this story and discover why the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, is world renowned.
The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from noon to 5 pm.
The Museum is closed on the following holidays:
The museum closes early (3:00 p.m.) on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
Gallery Admission Fee:
$3 Child and College Student with ID
Free to Ward Museum members and Salisbury University students, faculty, and staff with ID
Free to veterans and active military with ID
Show your AAA Mid-Atlantic card for discount on admission
Group Tours and Special Rates are available, contact 410-742-4988 ext. 120 to schedule.
In addition to gallery exhibits and the annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition, the Museum runs educational programs for children and adults through tours planned in advance. Activities for children include soap carving, bird watching and Environmental Reading. Carving classes taught by respected artists offer adults the opportunity to learn from the masters. Topical seminars, workshops, demonstrations and lectures promote wildfowl art and foster environmental awareness.
Established in 1968, the Ward Foundation has been dedicated to promoting wildfowl art and preserving the legacy of Eastern Shore decoy carvers, Lem and Steve Ward.
For the first several years, this was done primarily through advocacy, special exhibitions, and publications. These events include the Wildfowl Carving and Art Exhibit, held at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, and the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition, originally held in Salisbury but moved in 1979 to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, where it is still held today.
In 1975 the Ward Foundation established the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art. Until 1991 the Ward Museum was housed in the Great Hall of Holloway Hall on the campus of Salisbury University. From the beginning of the creation of the Ward Museum, there has been a partnership between Salisbury University and the Ward Foundation.
Expanding over the next decade and a half, the museum eventually outgrew its housing on campus. By the late 1980s, there was talk of a new facility. Plans were drawn up, and in 1992 the Ward Museum opened at Schumaker Pond where it remains today.
In 2000 the Ward Foundation donated the Ward Museum facility and its collections to Salisbury University. At the same time, the Ward Foundation became an affiliated foundation of Salisbury University.
Since then, the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art has thrived. The Ward Foundation has the responsibility of operating the Ward Museum, ensuring that its educational mission is advanced, and that it remains viable and vibrant to the audiences it serves.