Desiree Williams has recently been promoted to the position of site manager of the Buena Vista Conference Center located at 661 S. Dupont Highway in New Castle, Del. Called “the perfect wedding location” by Delaware Bride Magazine, Buena Vista features “lush grounds, cozy accommodations and luxe décor” that are utilized for a wide variety of functions including business gatherings and government meetings as well as receptions, parties and celebrations.
Williams has worked in the administration of Buena Vista since April 2014 having previously served as an administrator with the Delaware Department of State. Originally from New York City, she attended Delaware State University on a full scholarship, graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and public relations.
“It’s been one of my career objectives to work in the field of event planning, and managing a beautiful site like this [Buena Vista] is a dream come true for me,” noted Williams. As site manager, her responsibilities include maintaining the historical integrity of the mansion, conducting tours for potential brides and clients, assisting with planning and logistical details for events and weddings, maintaining the property’s social media sites, creating marketing and promotional strategies to increase visitation, and managing staff members who serve the more than 10,000 guests that attend events at the conference center each year.
Commenting on Williams’ service, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Director Tim Slavin noted, “Desiree is a wonderful addition to our team. She is customer-focused and has made Buena Vista one of the finest sites in Delaware for meetings and special events. We look forward to great things with Desiree as our site manager.”
Buena Vista is one of Delaware’s most historic homes. The main section of the house was built between 1845 and 1847 by John M. Clayton, United States secretary of state from 1849 to 1850 under presidents Taylor and Fillmore, and United States senator from 1829 to 1836, 1845 to 1849 and 1853 until his death in 1856. The home later became the residence of C. Douglass Buck, governor of Delaware from 1929 to 1937 and United States senator from 1942 to 1948. Buena Vista and its grounds were donated to the state by the Buck family in 1965 and now serve as a conference center administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
Listed below are three articles that demonstrate the important role that volunteers play in historic preservation efforts across the nation:
Celebrating the Value of Main Street Volunteers
National Main Street Center, Washington, D.C.
Students Working in Local Historic Preservation
Teachinghistory.org, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.
The Value of Volunteers
Texas Historical Commission, Austin, Texas
Go to the following to learn more about historic preservation and other volunteer opportunities with the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and with Preservation Delaware. Division volunteer projects have included research and analysis of archaeological artifacts, archaeological fieldwork, preparation of National Register nominations, archival research and preparation of various materials for educational programs.
Written on: April 29th, 2015 in News
On March 30, 2015, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs employees and volunteers gathered for an all-staff meeting to review recent successes and examine future plans. Held at the Buena Vista Conference Center near New Castle, the meeting featured an in-depth session that focused on disaster-preparedness and planning sessions for each of the division’s teams.
As part of the day’s activities, Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey W. Bullock recognized division director Tim Slavin for 20 years of service to state government. Bullock and Slavin then presented awards to division employees and volunteers who had made an outstanding impact on the division and the people that it serves. Extra Mile awards were presented to Buena Vista staff member Ryan Cardwell and volunteer Carolyn Apple, while Biggest Impact awards were presented to Michael Cinque of the Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team, and Alan Roth of the Zwaanendael Museum staff. Slavin also recognized four new employees that had joined the division since January 2015—Greg Buchman, Chris Conley, Amanda Goebel and Gene Modzelewski.
In 2012, Carolyn Apple, a Dover-area emergency medicine physician, was involved in a casual conversation with George Nicholson, one of her patients, when the subject turned to a large collection of World-War-II-era photographs that Nicholson’s wife was preparing to throw in the trash. A history buff, Apple agreed to temporarily take the collection until a proper home could be found for it. While reviewing the photographs, Apple realized that they were not simply soldier’s snapshots, but rather, high-quality documentary photographs taken by a talented photographer or group of photographers. Thus began Apple’s passionate stewardship of the William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection.
In searching for a home for the photographs, Apple approached the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs which agreed to accept them into the collections of the state of Delaware. Apple then volunteered to process the collection, documenting and preparing each photo for safe storage and unraveling its subject matter through painstaking Internet research. Working eight to 10 volunteer hours per week for 18 months, Apple gradually began piecing together the collection’s history. What she found was the story of an ordinary soldier who had done extraordinary things with a camera and developing equipment. It turned out that the collection contained over 650 photographs taken by Dover, Del. native William D. Willis and his colleagues who served as official military photographers during service in Western Europe between 1943 and 1945. The collection includes images of crash scenes and battle-damaged military aircraft, photos of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and aerial views of villages in Normandy, France. Willis and his colleagues also photographed the daily procedures of base life as well as United Service Organizations (USO) shows featuring celebrities such as Jack Benny and Ingrid Bergman and a concert by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra.
Apple also learned the personal history of Willis who was born on June 14, 1919. After graduating from Dover High School in 1939, he worked as a mechanic in an automobile-repair shop in his home town. On May 16, 1941, he entered active duty in the U.S. Army where he received training in Army Air Forces motor mechanics at Fort Devens, Mass. Pfc. Willis served as a mechanic for a year after completing his training and was then transferred to the position of photographic technician with the 9th Photo Technician Unit, taking pictures and handling various phases of laboratory work pertaining to negative processing. He departed for the European Theater of Operations on Aug. 9, 1943 and served there until Sept. 26, 1945. For most of his service, he was attached to the 20th Fighter Group at Kings Cliffe, England.
Willis arrived back in the United States on Oct. 3, 1945. Initially, he continued taking photographs after returning to Dover and his job as a mechanic. However, as he became increasingly involved in his father’s automotive-repair shop, he dismantled and sold his photographic equipment and went to work in the family business. Willis was married but had no children. He died in 2001. After his passing, his collection of World War II photographs came into the possession of his sister, Mrs. George Nicholson. It was through Mrs. Nicholson that the collection passed to Apple and then to the state of Delaware.
Once the Willis photographs had been safely accessioned into the collections of the state of Delaware, Apple was determined that a sampling be put on display for the enjoyment of the people of Delaware. Working with the division’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team, she took the lead in developing “World War II Through the Lens of William D. Willis,” a display that was on view from March 4, 2015 to Feb. 21, 2016 at Legislative Hall, located at 411 Legislative Ave., in Dover, Del. Because of the large number of photographs in the collection, the display will be presented in three succeeding segments, each featuring a selection of images that document different aspects of military life as seen by Willis and his colleagues. An online display covering different aspects of the collection is also available by going to the division’s Exhibits and Displays page.
According to Marian Carpenter, the division’s curator of collections management, the Willis display—and the collection itself—would not exist had it not been for the extraordinary efforts of Carolyn Apple. As Carpenter noted, Apple was “deeply involved in every aspect of the project from processing the initial donation of the collection to researching, documenting and curating photos; writing exhibit text; and assisting in the installation of the exhibit in Legislative Hall. … During the whole process, she never said that she couldn’t do something. Instead she said, ‘What do you want me to do.’ Her energy helped to make this display what it is today.” On March 30, 2015, division director Tim Slavin recognized Apple’s contributions when he presented her with the agency’s Extra Mile Award.
Written on: April 29th, 2015 in News
During the next few weeks, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be welcoming three new employees, augmenting the four new members who joined the division family in recent months. Following are profiles of these talented individuals who are helping the division in its efforts to save Delaware history.
Scheduled to begin work on May 4, 2015, Conservation Technician Manager Betsy Gant’s responsibilities will include management of the division’s Horticulture Team and supervision of contracted projects, as well as hands-on horticultural and arboricultural work. Prior to joining the agency, the Dover, Del. resident owned and operated Gardening Matters, her own landscaping company. She has worked as an estate caretaker at Reward Farm in Chestertown, Md., and as an agricultural-science research technician for the United States National Arboretum. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental health from Salisbury University and a certificate of graduation from Longwood Gardens’ Professional Gardener Training Program.
Slated to join the division’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team on May 18, 2015, exhibit-arts specialist Carlos Maldonado’s responsibilities will include graphic- and Web-design, as well as tasks associated with the design, fabrication and installation of exhibits at the state’s six museums and at associated sites. A graduate of Falkner High School in Mississippi, Maldonado holds a graphic-design certificate from the American Screen Printing Association. In addition to ongoing work as a freelance artist, he most recently held the position of art-room manager/graphic designer at First State Signs in Dover, Del., and before that was employed as an art director and graphic designer in his home state of Mississippi.
Beginning on June 1, 2015, Paul M. Nasca, RPA will join the division staff as curator of archaeology with responsibility for the curation, management, exhibit and conservation of the state of Delaware’s archaeological collections. Originally from Lewsiton, N.Y. and apprenticed as a cement mason, Nasca holds degrees in anthropology from the College of William and Mary (master’s) and the State University of New York at Buffalo (bachelor’s). His experience includes work as an archaeologist/collections manager for the City of Alexandria, Va.; as a staff archaeologist for the George Washington Foundation in Fredericksburg, Va.; as an archaeological conservator for the College of William and Mary; and as a field technician for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the Old Fort Niagara Association.
A division employee since Feb. 22, 2015, Chris Conley serves as a physical-plant maintenance-mechanic helper with the Preservation-Maintenance Team which maintains, repairs and preserves the nearly 90 structures administered by the agency. A graduate of Lake Forest High School in Felton, Del., Conley has worked for a variety of Delaware organizations including service as a member of the installation team for Artisan’s Marble and Granite in Newark, as a machine operator for the HandyTube Corporation in Camden and as a construction worker. In 2013, he served as a volunteer with the American Legion Ambulance Station 64 in Smyrna.
On March 22, 2015, Amanda Goebel and Gene Modzelewski joined the staff of the Zwaanendael Museum where they serve as historic-site interpreters, the division’s front-line connection with the public. Through tours and special programming, historic-site interpreters add a human face to Delaware history by providing in-depth information about the state’s historic places, and by bringing the people and events of the past to life.
Amanda Goebel returns to the division after a stint in New York City in 2013 and 2014 where she served in database management for the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and as an audio-tour guide at Liberty and Ellis islands. Goebel previously worked as a historic-site interpreter at the division’s downtown Dover museums in 2012 and 2013. A seamstress and historical-period-clothing aficionado, she holds a bachelor’s degree in fashion history and material culture from the University of Delaware, and is currently taking graduate courses in museum studies from the Harvard Extension School.
Prior to joining the division staff, retired educator Gene Modzelewski served as a volunteer at the Zwaanendael Museum; and continues to serve as a member of the division’s Community Engagement Committee that is drafting a marketing plan for the agency, and as an instructor for the YMCA of Delaware’s Diabetes Prevention Program. His career in education includes service as an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware and Wilmington University, and as a school vice-principal and teacher. Modzelewski has also worked in sales and marketing for a variety of companies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce and marketing from Rider University, a master’s degree in elementary education from Wilmington University and has completed coursework for a doctorate in education, also from Wilmington University.
A Buena Vista Conference Center employee from 1994 until 2010, Mary Shaffer is temporarily returning to assist with the transition resulting from the departure of Morgan Booker, one of the site’s administrators. Shaffer will be involved in the full range of responsibilities at Buena Vista including managing reservations, assisting with events and welcoming visitors. Concurrent with her work at the site, Shaffer will continue to pursue one of her passions—helping dementia patients reconnect with their memories and live more fulfilled lives.
In a ceremony held at the Dover Downs Hotel on April 21, 2015, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and first lady Carla Markell recognized 10 individuals and four groups as recipients of the 2015 Governor’s Youth Volunteer Service Awards. One of the recipients, Dover High School senior and Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer Catrena Moore, was honored for the more than 100 hours that she contributed as a horticulturalist working on the redesign of the public garden at Woodburn, the governor’s official residence in Dover. Woodburn’s garden is managed by the division’s Horticulture Team.
As a participant in the plant-sciences technical pathway at Dover High, Moore was interested in honing her skills in horticulture and gaining experience in her chosen field. After initiating contact with the division, she began volunteer service with the Horticulture Team in July 2014, participating in the installation of the re-designed Woodburn garden until it officially opened to the public on Oct. 23, 2014.
By all accounts, her contributions to the project were outstanding. According to Rachel Wootten, the division’s volunteer coordinator, “Every task assigned to Catrena, whether it be mulching, installing perennials or bulbs, or simply watering plants was done with a sense of pride.” Thomas Ratay, who was at the time a member of the Horticulture Team noted that Moore was “extremely helpful and her eye for detail is impeccable. … She saved valuable man hours by completing large portions of the bulb installation, along with constantly and consistently pulling weeds and watering plants. With her help we were able to complete the entire installation of the garden on time.” Summing up Moore’s service, division director Tim Slavin noted that she “was a star among our many volunteers. She was reliable, dependable, and professional, and her presence added much value to our Woodburn Public Garden project.”
Moore continues to volunteer two days a week in helping to care for the Woodburn garden. After her upcoming graduation from Dover High in June 2015, she will attend Delaware State University, majoring in horticulture.
By Rachel Wootten, volunteer coordinator, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
As volunteer coordinator, I see firsthand how the division’s Volunteer Program not only positively impacts those within the agency, but also the community at large. If you are looking for an engaging and enjoyable volunteer experience, look to the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
One of the things that makes our Volunteer Program so unique is that it encompasses a wide variety of positions throughout the state. We currently have volunteers who work alongside our Horticulture Team assisting with outdoor maintenance; volunteers who work with our Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team helping to develop and install exhibits; volunteers who assist our State Historic Preservation Office in saving Delaware history; and we even have volunteers who work as interpreters at the State of Delaware’s museums including the Johnson Victrola Museum, John Dickinson Plantation and Zwaanendael Museum. Current volunteer opportunities at the division include service in museum tours, historic preservation, collections management, maintenance, special events, administration, horticulture and so much more!
Volunteer service gives you the chance to share your talents with others and learn new skills, while at the same time earning credit for internships or service hours. Volunteering for the division also provides the opportunity to make significant contributions to the preservation of Delaware’s historical and cultural legacies. Finally, volunteer service for the division provides the opportunity to meet new people and become a member of a great team, an experience I know well as a new division staff-member.
I fully understand what it means to start a new experience. At first it is daunting; however with encouragement and support it quickly becomes rewarding. As the volunteer coordinator, I am here to support and encourage you throughout your service, much like the support and encouragement I received. So come join the division’s team! You will be glad you did. I know I am.
In addition to sponsoring exhibits and special programs at sites across Delaware, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs creates displays that provide a brief accent on different aspects of history and culture. Less formal than exhibits, these displays provide a compliment to the primary activities available at museums, historic sites, libraries, government buildings, visitor centers and other public places.
Following is a listing of division-sponsored displays that are currently on-view at sites across Delaware:
The display features depictions of noted historical and political figures including a Minute Man, and presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George W. Bush. The works compliment the familiar statue of William Penn, also created by Parks, which stands in front of the Arsenal building on Market Street in New Castle.
Over the course of a prolific 50-plus-year career, Charles Parks created more than 500 sculptures for individuals, public parks and plazas throughout Delaware and across the United States. His numerous honors and awards include a Gold Medal for Exemplary Contributions to the Arts from the state of Delaware (1973), the Watrous Gold Medal from the National Academy of Design, the Meiselman Prize for Classical Sculpture from the National Sculpture Society, the Gold Medal from the National Sculpture Society Annual Exhibition and the Tiffany Foundation Award for Creative Sculpture. In 2011, Parks and his wife donated more than 300 of the sculptor’s works to the state of Delaware including bronzes, plasters, woodworks and over 250 fiberglass works ranging in size from eight inches to nine feet from various periods in Parks’ career.
Utilizing graphics, clothing and memorabilia from the collections of the state of Delaware, the display will explore how Delawareans expressed their deep sorrow upon the death of President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865. The display opens on April 21, 2015 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the funeral train’s departure from Washington, D.C. for the burial of the president in Springfield, Ill.
On view over the course of a year, the display will be presented in three succeeding segments, each featuring a different selection of images from The William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection. The Willis collection includes more than 600 photographs taken by the Dover, Del. native during military service in Western Europe between 1943 and 1945 including images of crash scenes and battle-damaged military aircraft, photos of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and aerial views of villages in Normandy, France. Willis also photographed the daily procedures of base life as well as United Service Organizations (USO) shows featuring celebrities such as Jack Benny and Ingrid Bergman and a concert by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. This large photographic collection, of which only approximately 20 images will be featured in each segment of the display, surfaced after Willis’ death and was brought to the division’s attention which accepted it into the permanent collections of the state of Delaware in 2012.
William D. Willis was born on June 14, 1919 in Dover, Del. After graduating from Dover High School in 1939, he worked as a mechanic in an automobile-repair shop in his home town. On May 16, 1941, he entered active duty in the U.S. Army where he received training in Army Air Forces motor mechanics at Fort Devens, Mass. Pfc. Willis served as a mechanic for a year after completing his training and was then transferred to the position of photographic technician with the 9th Photo Technician Unit, taking and developing pictures and handling various phases of laboratory work pertaining to negative processing. He departed for the European Theater of Operations on Aug. 9, 1943 and served there until Sept. 26, 1945. For most of his service, he was attached to the 20th Fighter Group at Kings Cliffe, England.
Written on: March 26th, 2015 in News
During a Department of State employee-recognition ceremony held in Dover’s Old State House on March 3, 2015, Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey W. Bullock presented the department’s 2014 Employee of the Year award to Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs physical-plant maintenance supervisor Ed Gillespie.
According to the nomination letter, submitted by one of his co-workers, Gillespie’s “work ethic and positive attitude, even during emergency situations, has been an example to his team.” In May 2014, the division’s physical-plant maintenance superintendent went out on extended medical leave and Gillespie stepped into the breach by accepting leadership of the Preservation-Maintenance Team. During that time, Gillespie not only made sure that daily work assignments were completed and emergencies situations addressed, he also found time to mentor two new employees in electrical and heating-venting-air-conditioning procedures.
On multiple occasions, Gillespie has worked into the night and on weekends when emergencies have arisen at division-administered sites. During a single period in August 2014, he was confronted with concurrent electrical emergencies at the Johnson Victrola Museum and at Woodburn: The Governor’s House. In a deliberate and clear-headed manner, Gillespie took control of the situation, supervising contractors and making sure that repair work was completed properly. His quick reaction and calm leadership helped protect the buildings and the people who use them.
Commenting on Gillespie’s actions, Bullock noted, “Ed took extraordinary care to calmly handle both situations, going above and beyond his required duties, to make sure that both problems were sufficiently solved before calling it a day. It was because of his actions, as well as the positivity his presence brings to his team, that he was honored as this year’s Employee of the Year for the Department of State.”
Gillespie has served as the division’s physical-plant maintenance supervisor since April 2014. Prior to that time, he served for 10 years as a physical-plant maintenance mechanic.
The Delaware Department of State’s employee recognition program provides department employees with opportunities to be recognized for significant contributions, individual achievements and exceptional overall performance attained through their daily work and/or community service.
Beginning in late-March, 2015, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be conducting a series of capital improvements at several state-owned historic properties that it administers in downtown New Castle, Del. These improvements, which are scheduled to take place through the end of 2015, represent a $350,000 public investment in the historic city on the Delaware River that serves as the home of one of the state of Delaware’s six museums, as well as the headquarters of the First State National Historical Park.
Improvements will include roof replacement at the New Castle Court House Museum, renovation of the Arsenal’s south entry-door and first-floor restroom, rebuilding of a deteriorating brick garden-wall at the Academy and stabilization of the Green’s pedestrian pathways.
New Castle residents and visitors may experience some inconveniences during the time that improvements are taking place including temporary restrictions on pedestrian access; and the presence of building equipment, materials and barriers. In particular, roofing materials that will be utilized at the New Castle Court House will be temporarily placed along the curb near the Sheriff’s House located at 10 Market St. This placement, approved by the City of New Castle, will provide workers with ready access to the supplies and equipment that they need to expedite the repair process. With this and all of the other components of the 2015 New Castle Campus Improvement Plan, division staff, project consultants and contractors will make every effort to keep disruptions to a minimum and to facilitate the timely completion of improvements that will make historic New Castle a better place to live and visit.
The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ 2015 New Castle Campus Improvement Plan includes projects at the following locations: