Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

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: 302-436-8100
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 14 special events during August 2014

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 14 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. Free admission. 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. Free admission. 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. Free admission. 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. Free admission. 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. Free admission. 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. Free admission. 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. Free admission. 302-739-3277.

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.

 

Expanded visiting hours at the New Castle Court House Museum through Sept. 30, 2014

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The New Castle Court House Museum, located at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del., is now open for visitation seven days a week during the time period between June 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2014. Hours of operation are as follows: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The museum will also be open between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on the following state holidays: Independence Day (Friday, July 4, 2014) and Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 1, 2014). For additional information about visiting the museum, call 302-323-4453.

New Castle Court House Museum

New Castle Court House Museum

Funding for the expanded schedule was provided by the federal government as part of an agreement between the National Park Service, which manages the First State National Monument, and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, which manages the New Castle Court House Museum. The agreement seeks to collaboratively promote the preservation, interpretation and public use of the court house; and to expand its days of operation so that they conform to the park service’s policy of keeping its units open seven days a week during the summer. The museum is normally closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and state holidays.

One of the oldest and most historic courthouses in the United States, the New Castle Court House (main section built in 1732) served as Delaware’s first court and state capitol. Here in 1776, New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties declared their independence from Pennsylvania and England creating the Delaware State. The museum features tours and exhibits that illustrate Delaware’s unique boundaries, law and government and the Underground Railroad.

Established by President Obama in 2013, the First State National Monument is the 400th unit of the national park system and the first to be located in the state of Delaware. It is comprised of three of Delaware’s most historic areas including the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex (including the court house, Green and Sheriff’s House); and the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley. The national monument shines a spotlight on Delaware’s rich history including its Native American roots; early settlement by Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English colonists; its participation in America’s struggle for independence; and its distinction as the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

First State National Monument brochure featuring a photo of the New Castle Court House Museum.

First State National Monument brochure featuring a photo of the New Castle Court House Museum.

In the future, the national monument’s visitor center and headquarters will be housed in the Sheriff’s House, a historic property located next to the court house that was formerly owned by the state of Delaware and administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. In 2013, the Sheriff’s House was transferred to the federal government as part of the process which created the national monument. The New Castle Court House and New Castle Green continue to be owned by the state and administered by the division.

“With Malice Toward None…Delaware Life During the Civil War”: 16th annual Chautauqua tent show in Lewes, June 15 to 19, 2014

Friday, May 23rd, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

America’s deadliest conflict and its effect on the Delaware home front will be vividly brought to life during the 16th annual Chautauqua tent show, “With Malice Toward None…Delaware Life During the Civil War.” Events and programs will take place at a variety of downtown Lewes, Del. locations including the Zwaanendael Museum and the Lewes Historical Society from June 15 to 19, 2014. Admission is free and open to the public. Go here for a complete listing of activities. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

Bob Gleason will portray President Abraham Lincoln on June 18.

Bob Gleason will portray President Abraham Lincoln on June 18.

A unique mixture of education and entertainment, Lewes’ Chautauqua will be held under a large tent and will be headlined by re-enactors from the American Historical Theatre who will take on the personas of four individuals who played major roles in the history of the Civil-War-era: President Abraham Lincoln; Union spy Harriet Tubman; nurse and founder of the American Red Cross Clara Barton; and poet and nurse Walt Whitman. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and interact with the featured performers who will remain in-character throughout their appearances.

Dr. Daisy Century will portray Harriet Tubman on June 15.

Dr. Daisy Century will portray Harriet Tubman on June 15.

At the same time, the Chautauqua will explore the impact that the Civil War had on ordinary Delawareans from every strata of society. The First State’s wartime experiences reflected the particularly acute dichotomies and conflicting loyalties that were experienced by Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri—the “border” states that permitted slavery but did not secede from the Union. Delaware’s involvement in the war will be explored in a living-history performance by Wilmingtonian Willis Phelps who will portray James Elbert from Polktown, Del. who enlisted and fought with the United States Colored Troops.

Willis Phelps will portray Pvt. James Elbert of the U.S. Colored Troops on June 15.

Willis Phelps will portray Pvt. James Elbert of the U.S. Colored Troops on June 15.

Other topics of local interest include the following lectures and presentations:

  • “Benjamin Burton and His Participation in President Lincoln’s ‘Compensated Emancipation’ Scheme.” Presentation on the Indian River Hundred farmer who was the largest slaveholder in Delaware in 1862
  • “Conflicting Loyalties in the Border: Delawareans During the Civil War”
  • “Delaware as a Border State in the American Civil War”
  • “Delaware in the Civil War”
  • “Governor Ross of Delaware.” Program on William Henry Harrison Ross, slaveholder, Southern sympathizer and governor of Delaware from 1851 to 1855
  • “Lewes During the Civil War”
  • Maj. Gen. Alfred T. A. Torbert of Georgetown, Del. who served in the Union Army

Chautauqua takes its name from a series of adult education programs that were first held at a campsite on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York during the late 19th century. Chautauquas spread throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries bringing speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day to a wide cross-section of the nation’s rural and small-town population. Circuit Chautauquas (also known as Tent Chautauquas) were an itinerant manifestation of the movement. Programs would be presented in tents pitched in a field near town. After several days, the Chautauqua would fold its tents and move on to the next community. The popularity of Chautauquas peaked in the mid-1920s, after which radio, movies and automobiles brought about the gradual disappearance of the movement by the 1940s.

David Scott Taylor will portray Walt Whitman on June 19.

David Scott Taylor will portray Walt Whitman on June 19.

Reborn in the 1970s as a vehicle for humanities education, modern Chautauquas are organized around a core program in which re-enactors portray celebrated historical figures, speaking and interacting with audiences, often in the setting of a large outdoor tent. Modern Chautauquas have been presented annually in Delaware since 1999 featuring a wide variety of historical figures including Amelia Earhart; Dolley Madison; Eleanor Roosevelt; Edgar Allan Poe; the Lone Ranger; John Philip Sousa; and Delaware’s own Allen McLane, F.O.C. Darley and Clifford Brown.

This program is partially funded by a grant from the Delaware Humanities Forum, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Delaware Humanities Forum logo

The program is co-sponsored by the Lewes Historical Society and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs with additional financial support from the Delaware Heritage Commission, Delmarva Power and Sussex County Council under the auspices of Councilwoman Joan Deaver.

State of Delaware’s museums again say thanks to America’s military personnel

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

For the third year, the six museums of the state of Delaware have joined the ranks of Blue Star Museums as a vehicle for outreach to members of the United States armed forces. A collaborative effort of the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across America, the program offers free admission to all active duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Museums in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and American Samoa are participating in the program including children’s museums, fine art museums, history and science museums and nature centers.

Blue Star Museums logo

 Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the state of Delaware’s six museums tell the story of the First State’s contributions to the history and culture of the United States. Although admission to the state’s museums is already free, participation in the Blue Star Museums program allows the division to expand its outreach efforts to military personnel and thank them for their service to the nation.