Ward Museum: making wood fly

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Cases of decoys fill one room of the Ward Museum in Salisbury, Md.

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Symphony in White, a carving of whistling swans, appears to lift off its stand.

Decoy carvers have an uncanny ability to make wood fly. They slice away bits until a duck or goose or egret emerges, spreads its wings and takes off.

Don’t believe me? Check out the Ward Museum near Ocean City, Maryland. I first want here on assignment with Frommer’s back when I was writing travel guides. I didn’t expect to be impressed. I mean, a museum filled with duck decoys meant for hunting?

Instead of being bored, I came away

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The Crisfield studio of brothers Lem and Steve Ward, “counterfeiters in wood” they called themselves, is recreated here.

mesmerized by the artistry of the carvers whose work was displayed here. The geese fly away. Images of waterfowl emerge from a block of smooth shiny wood. Feathers, small and delicate, look as if they will fly away on a draft.

And if duck decoys are your thing, they have case after case of them, from all over the world and from throughout history.

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The history and geography of waterfowl decoys is on exhibit here.

My husband and I go back from time to time to see what’s new but to see old favorites. I took pictures of some of the pieces I look forward to seeing. Now, tell me, aren’t these amazing?

Ⓒ Photos and Text Mary K. Tilghman

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Arctic Tail Chase, a study of terns by David and Mary Ahrendt. Wow is all I can say.