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Division project utilizes people on the autism spectrum to get the job done right

Written on: August 28th, 2015 in NewsPreservation

In recent months, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ State Historic Preservation Office has been utilizing the skills of two young men on the autism spectrum to digitize information about Delaware’s historic properties for preservation purposes and to make it more accessible to the public. This information is part of a vast quantity of printed files, photographs, microfilm and microfiche that the office has accumulated since it was created in 1970 as a result of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

One of the preservation office’s 33,000 photographic-inventory cards that are being scanned by CAI associates.

One of the preservation office’s 33,000 photographic-inventory cards that are being scanned by CAI associates.

Bob and Paul (their actual names have been changed to protect their privacy) work for CAI (Computer Aid, Inc.) a global information-technology consulting and services firm that employs more than 3,000 associates worldwide, with over 800 working in Delaware. CAI’s workforce includes several people on the autism spectrum whose unique skills help the company address its customers’ needs.

In February, 2015, the Delaware Department of State contracted with CAI to utilize the company’s autism-spectrum associates in scanning photographic-inventory cards and microfiche from the preservation office, as well as materials from the Delaware Public Archives. The Department of State sweetened the deal by loaning computers and scanning equipment to CAI for the project.

CAI’s Dana Slachta, who supervises Bob and Paul, as well as many other people on the autism spectrum, noted that they are “the perfect fit for work such as scanning, data entry and quality-assurance testing. Their strengths include focused concentration, attention to detail, an ability to recognize patterns and deviations in data, and thinking outside the box. … We focus on the unique skills that they can bring to our company, and try to accommodate the difficulties that they face such as discomfort in social situations.”

Alice Guerrant, manager of the preservation office’s research center, noted that “the quality of work done by the CAI associates has been outstanding. Previous digitization projects have been slow, tedious and prone to errors due to the repetitive nature of the work … and when we tried to have the scanning mass-produced by machine, the results were less than perfect. With Bob and Paul, we know the job will be done right because they scan each file by hand and they pay attention to detail.”

Promotional image from the Specialisterne website.

Promotional image from the Specialisterne website.

The journey that led to CAI’s work with people on the autism spectrum began after Delaware Gov. Jack Markell read a New York Times article that spotlighted the work of Specialisterne, a Danish company that uses the characteristics of people with autism as a competitive advantage, and as a means to help those people secure employment. Markell subsequently invited representatives of Specialisterne to meet local stakeholders, including CAI, to discuss opportunities for the company in Delaware. The governor chaired the meetings and the result was a strong commitment to support the establishment of Specialisterne in Delaware as a hub for the Mid-Atlantic region and the United States.

On May 29, 2013, Specialisterne and CAI announced a National Founding Partnership to train and hire people on the autism spectrum. The two associates working on the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ project were early graduates of this training program and were subsequently hired by CAI. That’s good news for the division which is now getting a large chunk of its historic-property files digitized. In turn, this information is being made available to the public through digital vehicles such as the Cultural and Historical Resource Information System (CHRIS), a geographic information system on historic properties that are located in the state.

Go to the following for press articles on Specialisterne and its partnership with CAI.

Specialisterne links businesses, autistic workers
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—May 19, 2014

Creating Great Employees (Who Happen To Be Autistic)
Forbes Magazine, New York, N.Y.—Oct. 28, 2013

Delaware organization matches people with autism and tech jobs
Newsworks, WHYY TV 12, Wilmington, Del.—Aug. 28, 2013

The Autism Advantage
New York Times, N.Y.—Nov. 29, 2012

Division launches on-line calendar of events

Written on: August 14th, 2015 in EventsExhibitsMuseumsNews

During August 2015, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs launched an online calendar of events that provides comprehensive, long-term listings of programs taking place at the five museums administered by the division, and at the Buena Vista Conference Center. Click the following icon to view the online calendar.  


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Seven programs on Native-American heritage among 20 events at division museums during September 2015

Written on: August 12th, 2015 in EventsMuseumsNews

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 20 special events during the month of September 2015 at the museums of the state of Delaware. Seven of the events will explore the First State’s rich Native-American heritage and culture. A full schedule is included below. With the exception of DeBraak tours, all programs […]


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America’s Heavy Hitter—The B-17 Flying Fortress

Written on: August 11th, 2015 in ExhibitsNewsVolunteerism

 By Carolyn Apple, retired Dover-area emergency medicine physician and Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer In previous blogs, I discussed military gliders used during World War II but now I would like to move on to an aircraft that played a pivotal role in the outcome of the war, the B-17 Flying Fortress. […]


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Division staff members give back

Written on: July 31st, 2015 in NewsVolunteerism

By Tim Slavin, director of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs On Tuesday, we gave back to the community. As readers may know, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs benefits from more than 13,000 volunteer hours each year. In recognition of that generosity, a number of division team members went to the […]


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Goodbye Howard

Written on: July 27th, 2015 in MuseumsNewsVolunteerism

By Rachel Wootten, volunteer coordinator, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs [Editor’s note: Retired pharmacist and Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer Howard Fulcher of Dover will be leaving Delaware in August 2015 to return to his native New Jersey. Fulcher served as a division volunteer since April 2011.]  As I prepared to […]


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DSU freshmen present fresh perspectives on Delaware history

Written on: July 24th, 2015 in EducationMuseumsNewsVolunteerism

On Saturday, July 18, 2015, 18 incoming Delaware State University freshmen presented a series of interactive, history-related activities at four historic sites located in Dover, Del. The programs were developed as a partnership between the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Volunteer Program, the First State Heritage Park and Delaware State University’s Jumpstart Program, an […]


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Division welcomes four new staff members in June 2015

Written on: July 23rd, 2015 in News

During the month of June 2015, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs welcomed four new members to its staff including two historic-site interpreters, and a new member in each of the agency’s Preservation Maintenance and Horticulture teams. Following are profiles of these newest members of the division family. As historic-site interpreters who conduct […]


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On a Wing and a Prayer: A Closer Look at Military Glider Aircraft Used in World War II

Written on: July 21st, 2015 in ExhibitsNewsVolunteerism

By Carolyn Apple, retired Dover-area emergency medicine physician and Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer In my previous blog, I explained that gliders were lightweight engineless aircraft that were used by the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II to transport troops and heavy equipment into enemy controlled areas without detection. However, […]


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“Shirley Temple Day in New Castle” program at the New Castle Court House Museum on July 26, 2015

Written on: July 17th, 2015 in EventsMuseumsNews

On Sunday, July 26, 2015 at 2 p.m., the New Castle Court House Museum, located at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del., will present “Hollywood History at the Court House: ‘Shirley Temple Day in New Castle,’ ” a program that will explore child actress Shirley Temple’s July 2, 1938 visit to New Castle where […]


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