Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware”–Exhibit extended through Dec. 7, 2014

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has announced that the closing date for “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” has been extended to Dec. 7, 2014. The exhibit, on display at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, located at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Dover, Del., has been open since Oct. 16, 2013 and was scheduled to close on July 31, 2014. Operating hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

Underground Railroad conductor Samuel D. Burris.

Underground Railroad conductor Samuel D. Burris.

Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in partnership with the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway Management Organization and the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware, the exhibit explores the First State’s role in the pre-Civil War network of secret routes and safe houses used by black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. Focusing on two Delawareans who played important roles in this illegal and clandestine enterprise—Samuel D. Burris and Thomas Garrett—the exhibit explores the actions of a number of brave people who made principled decisions to follow their consciences rather than what they viewed as the unjust laws of the state and nation.

About Samuel D. Burris …
Born on Oct. 16, 1813 in the Willow Grove area near Dover, Del., Samuel D. Burris was the educated son of George Burris, a free-black man. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Samuel D. Burris is known to have successfully led several enslaved people from Maryland and Delaware to freedom. After an 1847 attempt to bring a young woman, Maria Matthews, out of Kent County, Del. to Pennsylvania, Burris was found guilty of aiding in the escape of a slave and was fined, sentenced to prison and thereafter sentenced to be sold into slavery. After being “purchased” for $500 by Wilmington abolitionist, Isaac S. Flint, he was taken to Philadelphia where he was reunited with his wife, children and friends. He continued to work for the abolitionist cause until his death in San Francisco in 1863.

About Thomas Garrett …
Thomas Garrett was born on Aug. 21, 1789 to a prominent Quaker family in Upper Darby, Pa. After moving to Wilmington, Del. where he was an iron merchant, Garrett operated as the stationmaster on the last stop of the Underground Railroad in Delaware, collaborating with a number of noted conductors including Harriet Tubman and Samuel D. Burris. He is credited with helping over 2,500 fugitive slaves escape to freedom. In 1848, Garrett was tried in Federal District Court meeting at the New Castle Court House under the jurisdiction of United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. After being convicted of trespass and debt for aiding and abetting in the escape of runaway-slaves, Garrett was fined several thousand dollars resulting in his financial ruin. Nonetheless, he continued to work for the abolitionist cause. He died in Wilmington in 1871.

Thomas Garrett

Thomas Garrett

 

Division’s autumn 2014 programming provides a wide variety of ways to learn about Delaware history

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

New programs added; changes made to previously announced events

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 60 special events between September and December 2014 at the state of Delaware’s six museums (The New Castle Court House Museum, the John Dickinson Plantation, the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, The Old State House, the Johnson Victrola Museum and the Zwaanendael Museum). Except for the September lecture/tours of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak, admission for all programs is free and open to the public. A complete listing of events is included below.

Cast of “The Trial of William Penn.” The historical-theatre production will be presented at the New Castle Court House Museum on Oct. 25, 2014.

Cast of “The Trial of William Penn.” The historical-theatre production will be presented at the New Castle Court House Museum on Oct. 25, 2014.

This programming is part of the division’s ongoing efforts to increase public activities at the state’s museums through simple, low-cost programs designed to not only attract new visitors, but to also offer inducements for people to make return visits to the facilities. Events include partnerships with community organizations, holiday activities, themed tours, expanded children’s programming and many others.

Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the museums of the state of Delaware tell the story of Delaware’s contributions to the history and culture of the United States. Through displays, exhibits and special programs, the museums explore how the state’s distinctive physical environment, in combination with the people who came to live there, gave Delaware an identity that is different from any other place.

Special events, September thru December 2014

Monday, Sept. 1, 2014
“An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 p.m. Museum open 8 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note change in museum hours.

Monday, Sept. 1, 2014
“The Star Spangled Banner: Then and Now.” Programs examine the development of America’s national anthem through time with original recordings played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Programs at 11 a.m. and 2 3 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note time change.

Monday, Sept. 1, 2014
“The Test of Time: The Relationship Between the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware and the Swedish Royal Family.” Elected Chief Dennis Coker discusses the rekindling of that relationship after 300 years and the advancements made by both communities. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Elected Chief Dennis Coker of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware (right) talks with King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden during the May 2013 ceremonies commemorating the 375th anniversary of the founding of New Sweden. Chief Coker will be speaking at the program, “The Test of Time: The Relationship Between the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware and the Swedish Royal Family,” at The Old State House on Sept. 1, 2014.

Elected Chief Dennis Coker of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware (right) talks with King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden during the May 2013 ceremonies commemorating the 375th anniversary of the founding of New Sweden. Chief Coker will be speaking at the program, “The Test of Time: The Relationship Between the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware and the Swedish Royal Family,” at The Old State House on Sept. 1, 2014.

Thursdays, Sept. 4, 11, 18 and 25, 2014
“Taper Thursdays.” Learn to make your own candle and help the plantation dip 200 candles that John Dickinson would have required from his tenants as part of their leases. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014
“Drums, Drums, Drums.” Guided tours explore Victor Talking Machine Company founder E.R. Johnson’s role in making music a fundamental subject in public education and in helping children to become familiar with the most popular musical instruments. In this program, visitors will learn about the significance of drums as both a means of communication and as entertainment, featuring original recordings played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Displays at the Johnson Victrola Museum.

Displays at the Johnson Victrola Museum.

Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014
“An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014
“Delaware’s Native People and Archaeological Study.” Program examines Native-American artifacts from the collections of the state of Delaware and how those artifacts interpret the rich culture of the first residents of the First State. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Mondays, Sept. 8, 15, 22 and 29, 2014
Lecture/tour of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak. Explore the history of the DeBraak which was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. Program includes a trip to the hull facility in nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for a tour of the surviving section of the ship’s hull. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Programs at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Limited seating. Admission $10 in advance by reservation through the Shop Delaware website. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

Visitors enjoying a tour of the DeBraak hull.

Visitors enjoying a tour of the DeBraak hull.

Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014
“The First People of the First State: A Lenape Celebration of Heritage.” Third annual celebration featuring the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware as they honor mother earth and Native-American culture with dancing and demonstrations. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Celebration Noon 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note time change.

Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014
Demonstrations by the Thistledown Fiber Arts Guild. Program explores spinning, weaving, knitting and other fabric arts. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 1–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014
“The Star Spangled Banner: Then and Now.” Program examines the development of America’s national anthem through time with original recordings played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Program 2 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Recently added program.

Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014
“Hearth Cooking Basics.” Hands-on workshop. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–1 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Students learning about hearth cooking at the John Dickinson Plantation.

Students learning about hearth cooking at the John Dickinson Plantation.

Saturdays, Sept. 20 and 27, 2014
“First People of the First State.” Two-part lecture, based on the research of Delaware archaeologist Cara Blume, explores Delaware’s Native-American communities of the past and present. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. on both days. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Programs cancelled.

Saturday Sept. 20, 2014
“Lost and Found: Native American Identity in Delaware’s Public Schools.” Panel discussion examines the challenges that Delaware’s Native-American students faced during segregation and the subsequent integration of the public schools. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.
Recently added program.

Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014
Arts in the Estuary.” Celebrate National Estuaries Day from the artistic viewpoint including the work of artisans, performers and authors. Partnership with the St. Jones Reserve. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road and St. Jones Reserve, 818 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. 302-739-3277.

Saturday Sept. 27, 2014
“Smoked, Pickled and Salted for Survival.” Learn how smoked, pickled and salted meats helped stretch food reserves in the winter, and participate in pickling meats with brine and smoking meats in the plantation’s smokehouse. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday Sept. 27, 2014
“Surviving Invasion: Learning About the First Peoples of the First State.” Based on the research of Dr. Cara Blume, this lecture will explore Delaware’s Native-American communities of the past and present. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.
Recently added program.

Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014
Native-American-themed program. Speaker TBD. “Capt. John Smith and his Encounter with the Nanticoke Indians.” Lecture by archaeologist Dan Griffith explores the natural environment of the Nanticoke River watershed in the early 17th century with a focus on the indigenous Nanticoke Indians and their encounter with Capt. John Smith. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Program at 2 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-645-1148. Note additional program description.

Saturday, Oct. 4 2014
“The Declaration of Independence.” Guided tours focus on the document in which the newly born United States declared its independence from Great Britain, and the Delaware signers who made this one of the most important documents in American history. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014
“An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First Saturday in the First State program. First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 3:30 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note change in program time.

First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries

First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries

Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014
River Towns Ride and Festival. Festivals in historic New Castle and Delaware City frame a bicycling event between the two cities. Family-oriented festival held from Noon–5 p.m. at the New Castle Court House Museum and The Green in New Castle will feature music, rides, attractions, games, tours, vendors, craft beers, food and drink. 302-323-4453.

Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014
“His Majesty’s Sloop of War DeBraak.” Held in conjunction with Lewes’ annual Boast the Coast festival, the event will feature a day-long slate of maritime-history and -archaeology activities including block-and-tackle demonstrations and a 2 p.m. presentation on the DeBraak shipwreck. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-645-1148.

Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014
“Pioneers in the Music Industry: Emile Berliner.” Guided tours explore the first pioneers in the music industry including the inventors of talking machines as well as early recording artists. Oliver Berliner, grandson of inventor Emile Berliner, will discuss his grandfather’s life, his inventions (including the gramophone) and his major contributions to society. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Program at 2:30 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note change in program description and time.

Emile Berliner, inventor of the disk-record gramophone. Oliver Berliner will speak about his grandfather at the Johnson Victrola Museum on Oct. 4, 2014.

Emile Berliner, inventor of the disk-record gramophone. Oliver Berliner will speak about his grandfather at the Johnson Victrola Museum on Oct. 4, 2014.

Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014
“A Day in the Life of the John Dickinson Plantation.” Visitors of all ages will enjoy a day of music, food, entertainment and hands-on activities from Colonial trades to hearth cooking in the 18th-century setting of the home of the “Penman of the Revolution.” Featured performers will be the Swordmasters demonstrating Colonial muskets and rifles, and giving fencing demonstrations. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277. Note program addition.

Friday, Oct. 24, 2014
“Lantern Tours of the Plantation.” Programs explore the parties, games, dances and entertainment that would have abounded at the plantation during the nighttime in the 18th century. Activities will also include wagon-ride guided-tours conducted by staff of the St. Jones Reserve exploring the nocturnal life of the estuary. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Programs 6–7 p.m. and 7:30–8:30 p.m. Free admission but, due to space restrictions, reservations are required by calling 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014
William Penn Day. Series of programs commemorating the 332nd anniversary of Penn’s disembarkment at New Castle, his first landing in the New World. Activities at the New Castle Court House and The Green include a re-enactment of the Livery of Seizen ritual in which Penn received possession of New Castle and a 12-mile circle of land surrounding it; “Tea With Mrs. Penn”; a performance by De Blokfluiters recorder/flute ensemble; and “The Trial of William Penn,” a historical play exploring Penn’s trial on religious freedom and the rights of English subjects under the law. and an evening concert by the University of Delaware Baroque Chamber Ensemble. New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware St., New Castle. 10 a.m.–6:30 p.m. 302-323-4453. Note cancellation of one program segment.

New Castle Court House

New Castle Court House

Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014
“An 18th-Century Sweet Tooth.” Hands-on workshop in which visitors can learn how to create 18th-century sweets and goodies. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014
“Mysteries of History.” Walking tour explores the unusual tombstones of St. Peter’s cemetery in Lewes. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Tour leaves from the museum at 2 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-645-1148.

Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014
“Man’s Best Friend.” Guided tours explore one of the most celebrated canines in the world—Nipper, the dog who adorns the Victor trademark, “His Masters Voice.” Programs will also include original Victor recordings played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014
“An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First Saturday in the First State program. First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014
“18th Century Market Fair.” Programs explore an era when The Green served as the focal point of life in Dover as historical interpreters explore the goods, wares and political attitudes of the 1700s. The Old State House will celebrate the fair with special tours and appearances by historical re-enactors. Sponsored by the First State Heritage Park. The Green, Dover. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. 302-739-9194.

Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014
“Swing.” Guided tours explore Victor Records’ original recordings of “swing music,” played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Tuesdays, Nov. 4 and 11, 2014
“The People’s House.” In recognition of Election Day, guided tours will explore the significance of The Old State House and the many state and county governmental functions that were conducted there between 1791 and 1933. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Senate chamber in The Old State House. Photo by Don Pearse Photographers.

Senate chamber in The Old State House. Photo by Don Pearse Photographers.

Tuesdays, Nov. 4 and 11, 2014
“An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Thursdays, Nov. 6, 13 and 20, 2014
John Dickinson’s Birthday Month. Visitors celebrate the birth of John Dickinson by helping to make a great cake and decorate it using royal icing and shaped marzipan. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014
Demonstrations by the Thistledown Fiber Arts Guild. Program explores spinning, weaving, knitting and other fabric arts. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 1–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014
“Delaware’s Decades—the 1970s: ‘Coastal Zone Act of 1971.’ ” Program description TBA. Lecture by Kevin Coyle, principal planner for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, on the landmark state-legislation that limited industrial development in Delaware’s coastal areas. Part five of an eight-part series exploring decades in Delaware’s history. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Program at 2 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Free admission but, due to space restrictions, reservations are required by calling 302-645-1148 no later than Nov. 6, 2014. Note additional program info.

Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014
“The Victors of World War I: The Power of Music.” In celebration of Veterans Day, this lively program examines music’s influence during World War I when patriotic songs were being composed throughout America. Hear 78 rpm recordings of this inspirational music played on authentic Victor Talking Machines, and explore how the Victor Talking Machine Company’s Camden, N.J. factory led the fight to make the world safe for democracy. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014
Candle-making workshops. Bayberry-candle workshop from 10 a.m.–noon examines bayberries and their use in creating bayberry candles. Presented in partnership with the St. Jones Reserve. Reservations required by calling the St. Jones Reserve at 302-739-3436. “Light Me Up!” workshop on candle dipping and discussion of lighting devices of the 18th century from 1–3 p.m. Reservations required by calling 302-739-3277 no later than Nov. 14. Museum also open for visitation 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover.

Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014
Dutch-American Heritage Day. Learn about the contributions that the Dutch have made to the economic, social, political and cultural life of Delaware and the United States. Program will include a lecture by Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs archaeologist Craig Lukezic. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Lecture at 2 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-645-1148.

Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014
“Handmade for the Holidays.” Seasonal program in which visitors can learn to create and decorate cards through the art of paper quilling and stenciling, and write a personal note with a quill pen. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014
“Hospitality Night.” Holiday-themed program featuring festive décor, music, demonstrations and seasonal refreshments. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. 6–9 p.m. 302-645-1148.

Zwaanendael Museum

Zwaanendael Museum

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014
A Taste of Jazz: From the Beginning.” Guided tours explore the sounds of the Jazz Age and the role played by Delaware’s native son, E.R. Johnson in jazz-music history, accompanied by early-jazz recordings played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014
“Handmade for the Holidays.” Seasonal program in which visitors can create a sachet with herbs and spices. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program at 2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014
“Tour Zwaanendael Museum.” Enjoy the museum’s festive holiday-décor. Event held in conjunction with the Lewes Historical Society’s Christmas Tour of Lewes. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. 302-645-1148.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014
“Simple Pleasures: Picnic, Play and Dance.” Utilizing authentic clothing and objects from the collections of the state of Delaware, Ann Baker Horsey, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ curator of collections, will discuss Edwardian and Roaring ´20s fall and winter recreational activities and their associated fashions that reflected the spirit of the liberated “modern” woman. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014
“An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First Saturday in the First State program. First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at Noon and 2 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014
Delaware Day awards ceremony. Event honors participants in the Delaware Department of State’s 13th annual Delaware Day Fourth Grade Competition which challenges students to create displays that help illustrate and explain the U.S. Constitution and the role played by Delawareans in the writing and ratification of the nation’s founding document. First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Time TBA. 302­–739–4111. Recently added program.

Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014
Spirit of Christmas in New Castle. One of the best preserved Colonial-era towns in America will feature tours of historic homes bedecked in holiday decorations, activities at museums including the New Castle Court House Museum, crafts, musical entertainment and more. Festivities will conclude at 5 p.m. with the annual Christmas tree lighting at Market Square. Downtown New Castle. 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. 302-328-3279.

Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014
Demonstrations by the Thistledown Fiber Arts Guild. Program explores spinning, weaving, knitting and other fabric arts. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 1–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014
“Handmade for the Holidays.” Seasonal program in which visitors can create a plaster ornament. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Mansion house at the John Dickinson Plantation.

Mansion house at the John Dickinson Plantation.

 

Programs on Native-American heritage among 23 events at division museums in September 2014

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

New programs added; changes made to previously announced events

 The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 23 special events during the month of September 2014 at the six museums of the state of Delaware. Six of the events—on Sept. 1, 6, 13, 20 and 27—will explore the First State’s rich Native-American heritage and culture including programs on the Lenape and Nanticoke Indian tribes. A schedule of all of the division’s September special programs is listed below. Except for the lecture/tours of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak, admission for all programs is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

Elected Chief Dennis Coker of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware (right) talks with King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden during the May 2013 ceremonies commemorating the 375th anniversary of the founding of New Sweden. Chief Coker will be speaking at the program, “The Test of Time: The Relationship Between the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware and the Swedish Royal Family,” at The Old State House on Sept. 1, 2014.

Elected Chief Dennis Coker of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware (right) talks with King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden during the May 2013 ceremonies commemorating the 375th anniversary of the founding of New Sweden. Chief Coker will be speaking at the program, “The Test of Time: The Relationship Between the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware and the Swedish Royal Family,” at The Old State House on Sept. 1, 2014.

According to Nena Todd, site supervisor for the state’s downtown Dover museums, September is a time for Native-American people to return to their homelands. Traditionally, the coming of cooler weather provided a signal for native peoples to transition from their summer hunting and fishing grounds to more secure winter lodging. This tradition of seasonal travel continues in today’s Native-American communities with September serving as a time when families come together and communities celebrate their heritage. One of Delaware’s most well-known Native-American celebrations is the annual Nanticoke Indian Pow-Wow that will take place this year on Sept. 6 and 7.

 Special events at the museums of the state of Delaware, September 2014:

Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 “An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 p.m. Museum open 8 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note change in museum hours.

Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 “The Star Spangled Banner: Then and Now.” Programs examine the development of America’s national anthem through time with original recordings played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Programs at 11 a.m. and 2 3 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note time change.

Display of Victor Talking Machines at the Johnson Victrola Museum.

Display of Victor Talking Machines at the Johnson Victrola Museum.

Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 “The Test of Time: The Relationship Between the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware and the Swedish Royal Family.” Elected Chief Dennis Coker discusses the rekindling of that relationship after 300 years and the advancements made by both communities. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Thursdays, Sept. 4, 11, 18 and 25, 2014 “Taper Thursdays.” Learn to make your own candle and help the plantation dip 200 candles that John Dickinson would have required from his tenants as part of their leases. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 “Drums, Drums, Drums.” Guided tours explore Victor Talking Machine Company founder E.R. Johnson’s role in making music a fundamental subject in public education and in helping children to become familiar with the most popular musical instruments. In this program, visitors will learn about the significance of drums as both a means of communication and as entertainment, featuring original recordings played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 “An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First Saturday in the First State program. First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 “Delaware’s Native People and Archaeological Study.” Program examines Native-American artifacts from the collections of the state of Delaware and how those artifacts interpret the rich culture of the first residents of the First State. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Mondays, Sept. 8, 15, 22 and 29, 2014 Lecture/tour of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak. Explore the history of the DeBraak which was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. Program includes a trip to the hull facility in nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for a tour of the surviving section of the ship’s hull. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Programs at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Limited seating. Admission $10 in advance by reservation through the Shop Delaware website. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 “The First People of the First State: A Lenape Celebration of Heritage.” Third annual celebration featuring the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware as they honor mother earth and Native-American culture with dancing and demonstrations. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Celebration Noon 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note time change.

Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 Demonstrations by the Thistledown Fiber Arts Guild. Program explores spinning, weaving, knitting and other fabric arts. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 1–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 “The Star Spangled Banner: Then and Now.” Program examines the development of America’s national anthem through time with original recordings played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Program 2 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Recently added program.

Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 “Hearth Cooking Basics.” Hands-on workshop. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–1 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturdays, Sept. 20 and 27, 2014 “First People of the First State.” Two-part lecture, based on the research of Delaware archaeologist Cara Blume, explores Delaware’s Native-American communities of the past and present. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. on both days. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Programs cancelled.

Saturday Sept. 20, 2014 “Lost and Found: Native American Identity in Delaware’s Public Schools.” Panel discussion examines the challenges that Delaware’s Native-American students faced during segregation and the subsequent integration of the public schools. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Recently added program.

Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 Arts in the Estuary.”Celebrate National Estuaries Day from the artistic viewpoint including the work of artisans, performers and authors. Partnership with the St. Jones Reserve. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road and St. Jones Reserve, 818 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. 302-739-3277.

 Saturday Sept. 27, 2014 “Smoked, Pickled and Salted for Survival.” Learn how smoked, pickled and salted meats helped stretch food reserves in the winter, and participate in pickling meats with brine and smoking meats in the plantation’s smokehouse. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Historic-site interpreters outside the John Dickinson Plantation’s smokehouse.

Historic-site interpreters outside the John Dickinson Plantation’s smokehouse.

Saturday Sept. 27, 2014 “Surviving Invasion: Learning About the First Peoples of the First State.” Based on the research of Dr. Cara Blume, this lecture will explore Delaware’s Native-American communities of the past and present. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Recently added program.

Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 Native-American-themed program. Speaker TBD. “Capt. John Smith and his Encounter with the Nanticoke Indians.” Lecture by archaeologist Dan Griffith explores the natural environment of the Nanticoke River watershed in the early 17th century with a focus on the indigenous Nanticoke Indians and their encounter with Capt. John Smith. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Program at 2 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-645-1148. Note additional program description.

 

DSU students to present history activities for the public at four Delaware museums

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

On Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., the four Dover-area museums operated by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be presenting interactive, history-related activities developed by a group of incoming freshmen from Delaware State University. Activities will take place at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, located in the Delaware Public Archives building at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; at the John Dickinson Plantation, located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road; at the Johnson Victrola Museum, located at 375 S. New St.; and at The Old State House, located at 25 The Green. Admission to all programs is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

Delaware State University freshmen participating in a paper-marbling training session at the John Dickinson Plantation.

Jumpstart Program students participating in a paper-marbling training session at the John Dickinson Plantation.

These one-day-only public offerings are being developed as a partnership between the division’s Volunteer Program and Delaware State University’s Jumpstart Program, an academic-enrichment and leadership-development initiative that provides opportunities for first-time freshmen to get a “jumpstart” on their college careers.

As part of the partnership, the 28 participating students were divided into teams of seven members each with a separate team assigned to each of the four museums. During the activity-development process, which took place during July 2014, team members were given free rein to discuss any topic related to their respective museum’s history or exhibits and to develop enjoyable and educational activities that provide museum visitors with fresh perspectives on Delaware history. The partnership gave students a unique opportunity to experience how museums develop public programming through efficient time-management, teamwork, critical thinking and creativity—valuable skills that the students will need as they move forward in their lives.

For additional information about the partnership, contact Deanna Rishell, the division’s volunteer services coordinator, at 302-736-7411 or deanna.rishell@state.de.us.

 

Historic sites enhance Delaware beach vacations

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

For generations, vacationers have been drawn to Delaware’s Atlantic Ocean resorts—Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. Located within 250 miles of several of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, the First State’s coastal towns offer the cleanest beach-water in the nation, a plethora of dining options, arts and entertainment activities, recreational opportunities, natural areas, state parks, night life and tax-free shopping among many other amenities.

“Landing of the DeVries Colony at Swaanendael, Lewes, Delaware 1631” by Stanley M. Arthurs.

“Landing of the DeVries Colony at Swaanendael, Lewes, Delaware 1631” by Stanley M. Arthurs.

As the location of Delaware’s first colony and one of the earliest European settlements in America—Swanendael, established by the Dutch in present-day Lewes in 1631—the coastal region also features a wealth of historic sites that help tell Delaware’s story and the role that it played in the creation and development of the United States. Many of these sites are open for visitation, offering high-quality experiences for every type of vacationer from families looking for rainy-day activities to dedicated cultural tourists and history buffs.

Following is a sampling of some of the historic places that can be visited within a 20-mile radius of Delaware’s Atlantic Ocean beaches. Hours of operation and other information can be found on each site’s webpage.

De Vries Monument
Pilottown Road, Lewes, Del.
Telephone: Call the Zwaanendael Museum at 302-645-1148

Delaware’s Colonial history began near this site which commemorates Swanendael, meaning “Valley of the Swans,” established by the Dutch in 1631 as a whale-hunting and agricultural station. The monument, located along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal (originally called Hoorn Kill), is named for David Pietersz de Vries, general administrator of the Swanendael colony.

DeVries Monument

DeVries Monument

Zwaanendael Museum
102 Kings Highway, Lewes, Del.
Telephone: 302-645-1148

Operated by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael. Modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, the museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history. Currently on-display are the exhibits “Delaware and the War of 1812″ which examines the service and sacrifice of Delawareans of 1812 to 1815; and “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” which explores His Majesty’s Sloop of War DeBraak, a British warship that sank off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. On most Mondays through Sept. 29, 2014, the museum is also offering lecture/tours of DeBraak which include a trip to nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for a curator-led tour of the surviving section of the ship’s hull.

Zwaanendael Museum

Zwaanendael Museum

As the administrator of many of the state’s most important historic sites, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs leases the following properties to community organizations that in turn, operate them for public visitation.

Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse
Surrounded by water, the lighthouse is located on the inner breakwater in Lewes harbor.
Telephone: 302-644-7046

The lighthouse was built in 1885 as a navigational aid for ships entering the Delaware Bay. It is currently closed to visitation. Cruises to the waters surrounding the structure are conducted by the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation.

Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse

Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse

Fenwick Island Lighthouse
Located at the intersection of 146th St. and Lighthouse Lane, Fenwick Island, Del.
Telephone: 443-235-8521
Operated by the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.

Built in 1858 to protect shipping from the Fenwick sand shoals that extend several miles out from the Delaware coast, the lighthouse sits exactly on the eastern origin of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse

Fenwick Island Lighthouse

Old Sussex County Court House
10 S. Bedford St., Georgetown, Del.
Telephone: 302-855-9660
Operated by the Georgetown Historical Society. Open 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays through Sept. 27, 2014. Other times by appointment.

In 1791, the Sussex County seat was moved from Lewes to Georgetown in order to provide a more centralized location for county governmental and judicial functions. In 1793, the building now known as the Old Sussex County Court House was constructed in Georgetown to meet the exact dimensions of the former county court house in Lewes. In 1837, the building was moved from its original location on Georgetown Circle to make way for the current court house which still occupies the site.

Old Sussex County Court House

Old Sussex County Court House

Prince George’s Chapel
101 Chapel Lane, Dagsboro, Del.
Telephone: 302-732-3324
Operated by the Friends of Prince George’s Chapel. Open by appointment.

Built in 1755 as an Anglican chapel-of-ease, the structure was named in honor of the English prince who would later become King George III. Its most distinctive feature is a barrel-vaulted ceiling made of natural, unadorned heart-of-pine planks.

Prince George's Chapel

Prince George’s Chapel

 

Other attractions featuring Delaware history that are located within 20 miles of Delaware’s beaches include the Bethany Beach History Museum, DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum, Fort Miles Historical Area in Cape Henlopen State Park, Indian River Life-Saving Station, Lewes Historical Society, Lightship Overfalls, Milton Historical Society, Nanticoke Indian Museum, Nutter D. Marvel Carriage Museum, Ocean View Historical Society, Rehoboth Art League, Rehoboth Beach Museum and the Treasures of the Sea exhibit. In addition, the towns of Lewes and Milton contain historic districts that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Division to offer 15 special events during August 2014

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 15 special events during the month of August 2014 at the six museums of the state of Delaware. A full schedule is included below. With the exception of DeBraak tours, all programs are free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

The Carter Family will be featured in the “Play That Old-Time Country Music” program at the Johnson Victrola Museum on Aug. 2, 2014.

The Carter Family will be featured in the “Play That Old-Time Country Music” program at the Johnson Victrola Museum on Aug. 2, 2014.

Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014
Interactive, history-related activities developed by Delaware State University students. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277. Recently added program.

Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014
“An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise”; plus interactive, history-related activities developed by Delaware State University students. First Saturday in the First State program. First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 3 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note additional program and change in starting time.

Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014
“Agriculture and Forestry in Delaware.” Presentation by Austin Short, deputy secretary, Delaware Department of Agriculture, who will discuss the influence of agriculture and forestry on Delaware’s economy dating back to the state’s founding when it was known as the nation’s bread basket; plus interactive, history-related activities developed by Delaware State University students. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note additional program.

Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014
“Play That Old-Time Country Music.” Guided tours Program explores Victor Records’ early recordings of “hillbilly music,” which later became known as country music, played on authentic Victor Talking Machines; plus interactive, history-related activities developed by Delaware State University students. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Program at 2:30 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note additional program and starting time.

Mondays, Aug. 4, 11, 18 and 25, 2014
Lecture/tour of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak. Explore the history of the DeBraak which was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. Program includes a trip to the hull facility in nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for a tour of the surviving section of the ship’s hull.Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Programs at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Limited seating. Admission $10 in advance by reservation only through the Shop Delaware website. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

Wednesdays, Aug. 6, 13, 20 and 27, 2014
“Weaving Wednesdays.” Indoor, staff-led program in which visitors will learn how to weave a blanket or rag rug. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Weaving demonstration at the John Dickinson Plantation.

Weaving demonstration at the John Dickinson Plantation.

Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014
“Raiding the Mansion—Plundering the House of all its Provisions.” Learn about the Tory raid on the plantation’s mansion house through a special tour, and through examination of letters and primary documents. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014
Demonstrations by the Thistledown Fiber Arts Guild.Program explores spinning, weaving, knitting and other fabric arts. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 1–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Monday, Aug. 25, 2014
“Who was Black Anthony? Slavery and Race in New Sweden.” Lecture by Timothy Hack, associate professor of social and political science, Salem Community College. Sponsored by the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware. New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware St., New Castle. 6:30 p.m. 302-323-4453.

Division bids farewell to Curator of Archaeology Chuck Fithian

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

On June 30, 2014, Chuck Fithian, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ curator of archaeology, left the agency after a 28-year tenure. Beginning in August he will begin a new career-chapter as a lecturer in anthropology at Washington College in Chestertown, Md. The following article explores one of the passions that Fithian developed during his years of service at the division—his work in the conservation and documentation of His Majesty’s Sloop of War DeBraak, a British vessel that sank off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798.

When Chuck Fithian began full-time work as site supervisor of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Island Field Museum and Research Center in July 1986, he felt well on the way to cementing his career as a professional historian and archaeologist. Not only was he managing the museum, the site of a 1,000-year-old Native American burial ground, he was also responsible for the curation of the state’s substantial archaeological collections which were then housed at the museum.

Chuck Fithian with a diagram of the DeBraak.

Chuck Fithian with a diagram of the DeBraak.

Fithian had certainly come a long way since his graduation in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in history from Salisbury State College in his hometown of Salisbury, Md. After a number of youthful work experiences, he had served, between 1981 and 1986, as an interpreter and then as an archaeologist at Historic St. Mary’s City, a museum of history and archaeology located in Maryland’s first capital. Along the way, he met his wife Diane, who he married in 1984. Now the couple had moved to Delaware and were in the process of building their lives together. It seemed like things could not get any better—but then they did!

In August 1986, one month after Fithian started his new job, a private salvage company raised the hull of the 18th-century British sloop of war DeBraak from the ocean floor off Lewes, Del. While the operation was a bust for the owners of the salvage company who had anticipated recovering stores of gold and silver, it was a find of the highest order for archaeologists and historians. Altogether, more than 20,000 artifacts were recovered from the shipwreck site including approximately one-third of the ship’s lower hull. After maintaining passive custody of this collection between 1986 and 1992, the state of Delaware purchased it outright from the salvage company in 1992.

Fithian could not believe his good fortune. He had long held an interest in British and American naval history and suddenly, out of nowhere, he had direct access to one of the most important collections of 18th-century Royal Navy artifacts anywhere in the world. He had found a passion that would occupy him for the next 28 years.

Fithian jumped into the project, working tirelessly with his division colleagues to conserve and document the collection. One particularly daunting problem was the conservation of the ship’s hull which had been preserved for almost 200 years on the ocean floor by submersion in cold water and burial in sand. If the hull’s water-logged timbers had been allowed to dry, their cellular structure would have collapsed causing them to break apart. The solution was to immerse the hull in water, and later, to devise a hydration system that sprayed it at regular intervals, keeping it saturated and preventing its wooden components from disintegration.

In addition to conservation, Fithian led the division’s efforts in researching the history of the ship and its context in the late-18th century Atlantic World. This research, which has continued over the past 28 years, helped burnish Fithian’s reputation as one of the region’s foremost experts on 18th and early-19th century British and American naval history. In addition to welcoming scholars from all over the world to the DeBraak’s conservation facilities, Fithian hosted Peter Weir, director of the 2003 historical film “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” which depicts Napoleonic-era naval warfare. Fithian became a consultant for the film which went on to win two Academy Awards.

Beginning in 2011, Fithian led division efforts to further enhance the long-term conservation and preservation of DeBraak including the creation of an improved support-system to contain the hull and the addition of a filtration system that regularly cleans the water used to keep the hull wet. These improvements made it possible for the state of Delaware to begin offering public tours of the DeBraak hull in June 2012. True to form, Fithian led the tours of the hull from their inauguration until his last day of work at the division on June 30, 2014.

Chuck Fithian conducting a tour of the DeBraak hull.

Chuck Fithian conducting a tour of the DeBraak hull.

In the process of conducting these tours, Fithian discovered that he had a heretofore unrecognized talent and passion for teaching. He loved how his knowledge and experience could be used to transport people back to an earlier era, and he was gratified to see how his work could inspire people to appreciate the value of history and archaeology. With one door closing, another was opening for him.

In August 2014, Fithian will continue this new chapter in his life at Washington College where he will be teaching an introductory course on environmental archaeology “and any other courses that they want me to do.” In addition to teaching, he’ll be able to spend more time in research, and in documenting and publishing the results of his 30-plus year career as a historian and archaeologist. One thing won’t change however—his passion for the DeBraak. He plans to continue conducting research on the vessel and to volunteer weekly in its ongoing conservation.

(from left) Chuck Fithian, his wife Diane and son Jake.

(from left) Chuck Fithian, his wife Diane and son Jake.

Postscript:
Chuck Fithian had many other accomplishments during his tenure with the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Any one of these could have been the subject of a full article. Following is only a partial listing of his many achievements: Research on the material-culture and social history of Colonial- and Revolutionary War-era America; survey of Delaware sites related to the War of 1812; and research and consultation on the design of the Delaware Continental-soldier memorial in Dover, Del., and the monument at Gettysburg National Military Park commemorating the contributions of the 1st and 2nd Delaware infantry regiments. Fithian holds a Master in History from Salisbury University and is the recipient of that institution’s Wroten Award which honors individuals that have made a significant contribution to written scholarship about the colonial Eastern Shore.

 


“Middletown Goes to War” exhibit at the Middletown Historical Society

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 by Jim Yurasek
Opening panel of the Middletown Goes to War exhibit.

Opening panel of the Middletown Goes to War exhibit.

The contributions of Middletown, Del.’s military veterans from the Revolutionary War to the present are explored in the exhibit, “Middletown Goes to War,” that is currently on display through the spring of 2015 at the Middletown Historical Society, located at 216 N. Broad St. in Middletown, Del. The exhibit opened to the public on May 23, 2014.

Utilizing personal stories, photographs, mementos and artifacts supplied by community members, as well as period items loaned from the collections of the state of Delaware, the exhibit examines the contributions of this small Delaware town to the American war effort, and shines a spotlight on what the Middletown Historical Society’s lead exhibit-researcher George Contant described as “everyday people doing incredible things, and some doing astounding things.”

The Middletown Historical Society is open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and on the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to Noon, and the third Wednesday of each month from Noon to 4 p.m. Other visiting hours are by appointment. Admission is free. For additional information, call 302-378-7466.

“Middletown Goes to World War” was planned and created as a collaborative partnership between the Middletown Historical Society and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. The partnership is one of several in which the division has participated in recent years as part of its Affiliates Program which utilizes professionals from the division staff—including exhibit designers, curators, editors, museum managers, trades-people, archaeologists and historians—who work with history- and heritage-based organizations throughout Delaware to develop joint programs and exhibits, including potential display of items from the state’s collections.

Display of Vietnam- and Korean-War-era items.

Display of Vietnam- and Korean-War-era items.

Prior to the development of the “Middletown Goes to World War” exhibit, division staff members consulted with representatives of the Middletown Historical Society on gallery design, and on safety and security issues. Once the process of creating the exhibit had begun, the division’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team provided lead-researcher Contant with access to the state’s collections for study and for selecting items that would be loaned for inclusion in the exhibit including, among many others, a Revolutionary War era musket, a Civil-War-era sword, a World-War-I-era military snare-drum and a German field-blouse from World War II. Finally, the CARE Team designed, fabricated and installed the exhibit in the society’s gallery located in the Academy Building in downtown Middletown.

Display featuring an American Red Cross nurse’s uniform and accessories.

Display featuring an American Red Cross nurse’s uniform and accessories.

In an article that appeared in the Middletown Transcript on May 29, 2014, Middletown Historical Society Vice President Dave Matsen praised the division for its contributions to the exhibit noting, “They did an absolutely fantastic job. It’s a first-class effort. I was absolutely amazed. It makes all the sense in the world to pool resources and use their design experience to help local groups like ours. We’ve supplied artifacts and local stories, but we could not have created the displays like they’ve done. We couldn’t put on anything by ourselves that looks this beautiful.”

Display of American-Civil-War-era items.

Display of American-Civil-War-era items.

Since its inception in 2010, the division’s Affiliates Program has been a great success in creating new opportunities for the division to serve the public in communities where it has not previously had a presence. The program helps fulfill the division’s mission by increasing accessibility to state-owned historic sites and collections that might not otherwise be open to the public, enhancing leisure and educational opportunities for the state’s citizens and visitors, stimulating tourist visitation leading to economic growth and job creation and expanding public awareness of the importance of preserving and protecting Delaware’s historical and cultural legacy.

Display cases at the “Middletown Goes to War” exhibit. In the foreground is a German field-blouse from World War II.

Display cases at the “Middletown Goes to War” exhibit. In the foreground is a German field-blouse from World War II.

In addition to the Middletown exhibit, recent projects include the addition of new interpretive panels at the maritime and shipbuilding exhibit that the CARE Team had originally created for the Bethel Historical Society in 2012; installation of an exhibit at the Dover Public Library featuring works from the state-owned Norma Varisco de García Collection of Hispanic Art; graphic design and the loan of items for the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society’s “Crusin’” exhibit; the loan of items to the Presbyterian Church of Dover; and the mounting of a display of works from the 6th Annual Lt. Governor’s Art Contest.

New interpretive panel at the Bethel Historical Society.

New interpretive panel at the Bethel Historical Society.

Other organizations that have participated in the Affiliates Program, or that have worked in partnership with the division, include the Delaware Historical Society, Delaware Welcome Center Travel Plaza, Friends of Belmont Hall, Historic Odessa Foundation, Laurel Historical Society, Lewes Historical Society, New Castle Historical Society, Ocean View Historical Society, Rehoboth Art League, the Schwartz Center for the Arts, Seaford Historical Society, Smyrna Rest Stop and the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware.

Division projects honored with prestigious national awards

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

On June 18, 2014, the American Association for State and Local History announced that two Delaware-Division-of-Historical-and-Cultural-Affairs-affiliated projects were among the winners of the 69th annual Leadership in History Awards, the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. The Delaware projects that were honored include “The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World,” a multi-dimensional interpretive program on the British warship that sank off the coast of Delaware in the late 18th century; and Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980, a Delaware Historical Society exhibit created with extensive assistance from the division.

Leadership in History Awards logo

Leadership in History Awards are the American Association for State and Local History’s highest distinction and the winners represent the best in the field,” said Terry Davis, association president and chief executive officer. “This year, we are pleased to distinguish each recipient’s commitment and innovation to the interpretation of history, as well as their leadership for the future of state and local history.” The Leadership in History Awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation and interpretation of state and local history throughout America.

Leadership in History Awards include, among others, the Award of Merit which is presented for excellence in history programs, projects and people when compared with similar activities nationwide; and the History in Progress Award which is presented to 5% or less of the total winners of the Award of Merit for projects that are highly inspirational; exhibit exceptional scholarship; and/or are exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships or collaborations, creative problem-solving or unusual project design, and inclusiveness.

Following is information on the two Delaware-Division-of-Historical-and-Cultural-Affairs-affiliated projects that were honored with Leadership in History Awards in 2014:

“The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World”
A recipient of the Award of Merit, “The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” shines a spotlight on His Majesty’s Sloop of War DeBraak, a British warship that was escorting and protecting a convoy of British and American merchant ships en route to the United States when it was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. The surviving section of the ship’s hull and its associated artifact collection have been curated by the division since they were acquired by the state of Delaware in 1992.

Held on Mondays from late spring through early fall, program activities begin at the Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., where a lecture and video on the ship are presented in conjunction with the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World.” The exhibit tells the story of the vessel, its crew and the historical context within which it operated in the late 18th century. Visitors are then transported, via van, to the DeBraak hull facility in nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for an interpreter-led tour of the surviving section of the ship’s hull. Remaining programs during 2014 will be held at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on July 7, 14, 21 and 28; Aug. 4, 11, 18 and 25; and Sept. 8, 15, 22 and 29. For tickets and additional information, go to the Shop Delaware website or call 302-645-1148.

Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

Viewing area inside the DeBraak hull facility. The surviving section of the ship’s hull can be seen in the left of the photo.

Viewing area inside the DeBraak hull facility. The surviving section of the ship’s hull can be seen in the left of the photo.

“Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980”
A recipient of both the Award of Merit and the History in Progress Award, “Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980” explored the faith experiences of Delaware’s black community and its contributions to the development of religion in the United States including a commemoration of the bicentennial of the African Union Methodist tradition and the August Quarterly, the nation’s oldest African-American religious festival.

On-display from Sept. 27, 2013 to June 14, 2014 at the Delaware History Museum, a unit of the Delaware Historical Society located at 504 N. Market St. in Wilmington, Del., the exhibit was created through a partnership between the society’s curatorial staff, which researched and wrote the exhibit narrative and organized loans of exhibited objects; and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team which designed, fabricated and installed the exhibit. Go to the following to view the exhibit online.

Section of the exhibit “Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980.”

Section of the exhibit “Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980.”

Division to offer 16 special events during July 2014

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 16 special events during the month of July 2014 at the six museums of the state of Delaware. A full schedule is included below. With the exception of DeBraak tours, all programs are free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

Display of Victor Talking Machines at the Johnson Victrola Museum. Patriotic music will be featured at the museum on July 4 and 5, 2014.

Display of Victor Talking Machines at the Johnson Victrola Museum. Patriotic music will be featured at the museum on July 4 and 5, 2014.

Wednesdays, July 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, 2014
Hands On History. Visitors will experience 18th-century history by participating in a different demonstration each week. Hands-on demonstrations will include sachet making, paper marbling, paper quilling, plantation journal-making and plaster casting. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Historic-site interpreter Barbara Carrow demonstrating plaster casting at the John Dickinson Plantation.

Historic-site interpreter Barbara Carrow demonstrating plaster casting at the John Dickinson Plantation.

Friday and Saturday, July 4 and 5, 2014
“Stars and Stripes.” Guided tours explore some of Victor Records’ many recordings of patriotic music played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–6 p.m. on July 4. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. on July 5. 302-744-5055.

Friday, July 4, 2014
Independence Day program. Screenings at 11 a.m., 1 and 5 p.m. of “Thunder and Rain,” a film about Caesar Rodney’s historic ride for independence. At 2 and 4:30 p.m., the bell of The Old State House will ring in celebration of the nation’s birthday, followed immediately by site interpreters, dressed in period clothing, who will recite the Declaration of Independence aloud from the spot where the document was first read to the citizens of Dover in 1776. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Museum open 9 a.m.–6 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Friday and Saturday, July 4 and 5, 2014
“An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. July 4—tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 4 p.m.; museum open 9 a.m.–6 p.m. July 5—tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 p.m.; museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, July 5, 2014
“Independence Day.” First Saturday in the First State program features screenings at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. of “Thunder and Rain,” a film about Caesar Rodney’s historic ride for independence. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Mondays, July 7, 14, 21 and 28, 2014
Lecture/tour of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak. Explore the history of the DeBraak which was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. Program includes a trip to the hull facility in nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for a tour of the surviving section of the ship’s hull. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Programs at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Limited seating. Admission $10 in advance by reservation only through the Shop Delaware website. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

Saturday, July 12, 2014
Demonstrations by the Thistledown Fiber Arts Guild. Program explores spinning, weaving, knitting and other fabric arts. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 1–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Free admission. 302-739-3277.