We are excited to announce that the Delaware Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs has been selected to participate in the American Association of Museums‘ (AAM) Museum Assessment Program (MAP). Through a year-long process of guided self-study and on-site consultation with museum professionals, this initiative will empower the division to better serve the community by helping the state’s museum system to meet and exceed the highest professional standards of the museum field.
HCA began the MAP application process in August of last year as part of the division’s initiative to prepare the AAM’s rigorous Museum Accreditation Program. AAM-Accredited museums comprise a list of elite institutions across the country that have demonstrated the highest levels of ethical and professional standards in the museum field.
Think of museum accreditation like college accreditation and the Star Diamond Award (accreditation for restaurants and hotels) meeting in a coffee shop and saying, “Let’s go to the museum!” It would (read: will) be a great honor for the entire state if (read: when) we can put this figurative feather in our figurative tricorne hat.
Over the course of the next year, an assessment team comprised of HCA staff and partners from the state and local communities will work with a network of leading museum professionals to carry out an organizational assessment that will address the division’s operations from five areas of focus:
I. Mission and Planning – Does our mission address the needs of the community and are we fulfilling it?
II. Interpretation – How are we connecting the community to the state’s collections? Is it effective?
III. Collections Stewardship – How are we protecting the state’s collections? How could we improve as stewards?
IV. Administration and Finance – Do our administrative practices reflect the needs of the division and the community that it serves?
V. Governance – Does our leadership and organizational structure foster a presence of public trust and accountability?
While HCA does hope to be considered for AAM Accreditation in coming years, MAP provides an opportunity for us to better realize an even greater overall goal: empowering visitors and residents of the First State by fostering a strong and lasting relationship with its rich cultural heritage and dynamic history. It just so happens that one goal leads happily to the other.
Do you see where this is going? See, YOU happen to be a pretty big part of this process, so why not embrace it and participate? “How do I participate?” you may ask… Well, you can start here and now by leaving your thoughts below about this program we’ve gotten ourselves into.
There will also be opportunities in the future to participate in some of the assessment surveys and activities. Keep an eye out for details here on the HCA Blog or, if you can’t stand the thought of missing out on the fun, you can email me, Travis Kirspel, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more or have any suggestions about how we can make the most of this opportunity with AAM and IMLS!
So what do you think? What do you hope to see from this Museum Assessment Program?
By Alice Guerrant, Historic Archaeologist
This is HCA’s first blog on the topic of preservation, so we thought it appropriate to introduce, for what may be the first time for many readers, the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office.
Historic preservation means the study, protection, and maintenance of the historic places that keep us in touch with our state’s history. For instance:
• The Green in the heart of old New Castle brings you close to our colonial and early national past.
• Archaeological sites may be excavated by consultants from DelDOT before building a road through the area in order to study and protect artifacts and living spaces last touched thousands of years ago.
Back in the 1960s, urban renewal, interstate highways, and other efforts led by the federal government led to the disappearance of many local historical sites and buildings. People were unhappy that these projects, however needed, were tearing down their neighborhoods with no input from the people who lived there or nearby. Out of these problems was born a national commitment to historic preservation, in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
The most important thing this act did was to establish a federal-state partnership for historic preservation, giving a way to voice local concerns. This created a State Historic Preservation Office in every state and territory. In Delaware, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs houses this office and the Director of the Division is the State Historic Preservation Officer.
The Preservation Team works with government agencies to avoid damage to historic properties from their projects. If that can’t be done, the agency documents buildings with photographs and drawings or archaeological sites with excavation. These kinds of reviews (called Section 106 reviews after the part of the Act that created them) take up a great deal of our staff’s time.
So what else does the Preservation Team do?
• We help people get places important to them listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
• We help owners get state or federal tax credits for National Register-listed buildings if the owner fixes them up in an approved way.
• We work with communities that want to protect their historic places in land use planning and as partners with us, called Certified Local Governments.
• We produce a statewide plan for historic preservation every five years.
• We maintain a Research Center of all the information, photographs, and reports that people have produced about Delaware’s historic buildings, sites, structures, and objects since this program started.
• We work with local and statewide historical, archaeological, and preservation groups, and students in these fields.
• We sponsor a research symposium for historians and archaeologists interested in the Delaware Valley’s 17th-century experience.
Our history is all around us. It touches us all, and reminds us of where we came from. Some places have disappeared. Nevertheless, there are many important historic places that are worth keeping for Delawareans now and in the future.
What places are important to you?
Welcome to the official blog of Delaware’s Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs. This inaugural post is a special milestone in the division’s current “Point and Click” initiative, which aims to make the division and its holdings more accessible to the public. Having as much concern for the future as we do for the past, we also hope that this forum will make the public more accessible to the division.
In other words, “It is my pleasure to introduce to you the Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs.” State agency we may be, we are also a team of individuals deeply committed to “Saving Delaware History” and using it to carry Delaware’s story forward for future generations. This important work takes our staff across the state and the region on a wide variety of directives:
Alright, that last example may have been a little eerie, but we are all over the state and we are doing a lot more than meets the eye. I hope that this new blog will give you an opportunity to engage with the people that are doing these wonderful things as well as those wonderful things that they are doing.
This is also a good opportunity to point out some other great things that are happening outside of our division. Here are some other state blogs that you can check out in order to keep your finger on the pulse of the Delaware’s past and present:
I look forward to watching this initiative unfold as we continue to build connections within our public and professional communities by “Blogging Delaware History.”
Check back soon!
Timothy A. Slavin
Director, Historical & Cultural Affairs
What would you like to see in a blog devoted to “Saving Delaware History?”