Published November 4, 2019

By Nora Pehrson

Bay to Belly project director Sarah Linden-Brooks

Thanks to a grant from Virginia Humanities, the Watermen’s Museum in Yorktown, Virginia is developing a traveling exhibit devoted to the food systems of the Chesapeake Bay region.

By looking at a wide range of topics including keystone species, sustainability, and the stories of indigenous peoples, the exhibit—Bay to Belly—teaches participants how the food they eat ends up on their plates, or how it travels from “Bay to belly.”

Project Director Sarah Linden-Brooks is bringing the exhibit into being with the help of a devoted team of scholars, museum staff, and local teachers. Here, she explains the project in her own words.

Why is it important for people to know the stories behind the food they eat?

​It’s important because food is a unifying element across the human experience. These days, people are quick to find differences to argue over and slow to acknowledge similarities. Food helps tie the Chesapeake region together and the Bay to Belly project will highlight the cultural and historical ingredients that make up this region’s culinary traditions—the Chesapeake identity.

How did you get involved in this work?

​I am a historian and maritime enthusiast. I attended a National Foundation for the Humanities Summer Institute in 2018 and it compelled me to research and share information about the intersectionality of food, culture, history, and the environment. I approached the Watermen’s Museum in Yorktown about the project as it aligns with their mission and the rest is history!

How is your project making a difference?

By showcasing the process from harvest to packaging and purchase to preparation, the exhibit will highlight the connections between the lives of consumers and the watermen and the Bay. Participants will be encouraged to make connections between their actions as residents and visitors to the Chesapeake and the sustainability of the Chesapeake identity.

What drew you to Virginia Humanities? Why did you apply here?

​Both I and the Watermen’s Museum have worked on Virginia Humanities funded projects in the past. It was a positive experience and so we were drawn to apply for this project. Because of the interdisciplinary nature and humanities focus of this exhibit, it seemed to capture many of the areas of interest for Virginia Humanities. We’re so happy that Virginia Humanities agreed and decided to fund the project!

Explore More

Bay to Belly is set to launch on Saturday, March 28, 2020 at The Watermen’s Museum. Following the launch, the exhibit will travel to different locations along the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. Stay tuned for an announcement about the specific dates and places.

Learn more about our Grants Program.

Vanessa Adkins, right, is apprenticing under her cousin Jessica Canaday Stewart learning the finer points of traditional Chickahominy dancing. Photos taken at the Fall Festival and Pow Wow in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

Our work brings people together and honors our shared humanity.