These records document the history of CBCES and the development of its programs. Included are materials concerning the establishment of the Center; land acquisition, including files on foundations that contributed funds for the purchase of property; facilities development; the cooperative agreement between the Smithsonian, the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland for research at CBCES; the development and activities of the Chesapeake Research Consortium; research conducted by CBCES staff and visiting scientists; proposals for research at CBCES; CBCES projects including the Rhode River Watershed Program, the Rhode River Environmental Education Project, and the Poplar Island Erosion Control Study; relations with Smithsonian bureaus, government agencies, community groups, and research organizations; and environmental issues, especially those affecting the Chesapeake Bay. The records were created primarily by Francis S. L. Williamson during his tenure as Director of CBCES, 1968-1975. Also included are smaller amounts of records created by his predecessor, Kyle R. Barbehenn, 1965-1968, and by J. Kevin Sullivan as Assistant Director, 1971-1975, Acting Director, 1975-1976, and Director, 1976. Correspondence of Smithsonian administrators Philip C. Ritterbush, Helmut K. Buechner, and Irvin Eugene Wallen is also found in the records.
The records include incoming and outgoing correspondence, memoranda, proposals, reports, photographs, and publications.