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  Archived Posts From: 2012


What Do You Know About Allen McLane?

Written on: February 14th, 2012 in EducationHistoric SitesMuseums

On June 30th of last year, members of the Delaware General Assembly joined Governor Jack Markell and guests from across the country to pass Senate Joint Resolution #7 at the Old State House in Dover. Sponsored by Sens. Brian Bushweller and Bruce Ennis along with Reps. William Carson and Darryl Scott, the resolution honors the memory and accomplishments of Major Allen McLane of Smyrna, a hero of the American Revolution.

Why such a fuss more than two centuries later, though? Haven’t all of the memories, accomplishments, and heroes of the American Revolution been sufficiently honored by now?!

Well… what do you know about Allen McLane?

Odds are his name doesn’t ring as many bells as Caesar Rodney or Gunning Bedford, but his legacy merits a comparable resonance among the company of Delaware’s most celebrated patriots. SJR#7 was a significant step, but this will be the first in a series of postings to further explore the life and exploits of Allen McLane through topics like McLane’s:

  • relationship with General George Washington
  • special assignments as spy, scout, and reconnoiterer
  • major contributions to the Revolution during the Valley Forge winter of 1777-78
  • children and grandchildren, including son Louis McLane, who served as US Congressman, US Senator, ambassador to England, and Secretary of the Treasury and of State under Andrew Jackson.
  • 29 year career as Collector of the Port of Wilmington

While Governor Markell shares credit for passing Senate Joint Resolution #7 with its above-mentioned sponsors from the General Assembly, McLane would have likely remained a long-forgotten hero without the passionate work of Tom Welch, who will serve as the “man behind the curtain” for the series of blog posts to follow.

Mr. Welch has worked with the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs as a historical interpreter since 2007. Prior to joining HCA, he spent 27 years as a celebrated administrator with Wesley College in Dover.

In 2008, Tom was asked to portray McLane in a special Delaware Day living history program. Upon researching his character, he was surprised to find how much McLane had accomplished and how little was popularly known about him.  Mr. Welch has devoted the years since to learning as much as he can about McLane and showing visitors to Delaware’s state capital what all the “fuss” is about with Allen McLane.

Since the passing of SJR#7, Welch has taken his living history portrayal on the road. This blog series offers yet another avenue for him to share his great research with the world in helping us all to recognize one of Delaware’s and America’s revolutionary heroes.

So the question still stands… What do you know about Allen McLane??



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A Blog from the HCA Gardens: Top 5 Things We Do in the Winter

Written on: February 9th, 2012 in Historic SitesHorticultureNews

By: Ken Darsney, Curator of Horticulture

Being someone who has decided to work outside for a living, there are two questions I get asked more than anything else.

The first, which happens in the summer, is: “Hot enough for ya?

at which I reply, “Yes. Yes it is.

The second, and much more legitimate, question is:

What do you guys do in the winter if it doesn’t snow?

Well, I figured I would spend this introductory blog listing the top five things we do in the winter.

1. Tree Work

Without their leaves, trees are much easier to climb for corrective pruning, and create less mess if you are completely removing them.  We can more easily see defective branching, physical damage, and signs of inner issues, such as fungal growths and bark peeling.  Also, the (normally) frozen ground lends access to the trees with trucks and equipment that would normally cause damage to the root system.

2. Mechanic Work

Since we have a limited amount of the season to operate our equipment, it usually is run hard, for long periods of time, with as little downtime as possible.  Now is the perfect time to thoroughly go through our equipment, make any repairs that had to be postponed during the busy season, and completely prep and maintain the machinery, so when the season cranks up we can run them hard, for long periods of time, with as little downtime as possible.

3. Greenhouse Production

The greenhouse is getting busy now, with seeds being ordered, indoor plants being stored and groomed, and potting mixes being delivered and prepped.


4. Pruning

This is an excellent time to perform one of the most critical steps in the long-term health of an evergreen shrub, depth pruning.  This is a practice most often performed on boxwood and holly, although it can be performed on any shrub that you are trying to keep contained within certain space.  Depth pruning involves removing portions of the shrub, not too large, in a uniform way, so as to increase air circulation within the shrub, and allow light to penetrate the inner sections of the shrub to encourage new growth.

5. Regroup and Plan

This is probably the most important, and frankly, the most fun, part of we are doing this time of year.  We’ve just been through the non-stop gauntlet of mowing, weeding, watering, watering, weeding, a hurricane!!, more watering, snow on Halloween?!?, leaves, leaves, leaves, holiday decorations, etc.  The holiday season is kind of the gardeners way of busting across the finish line, and now it’s time to sit down, analyze what worked and what didn’t from the past season, make changes and adjustments for next season, and start waiting for spring.

Ken Darsney has been in horticulture since 1991, spending 16 years with a large-scale residential and commercial landscape firm before going into business with his wife, Angie, in 2005, with a company specializing in estate maintenance. He joined HCA in 2011 with an interest in sustainable landscapes, noting that “a healthy landscape ecosystem is the best defense against pest and disease,” which lends itself the Division’s mission. Ken and Angie have two boys, 7 and 3, so he doesn’t have much in the way of free time, but he does get out into the woods as much as possible.

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Planning So Our Historic Places Have a Future

Written on: February 7th, 2012 in ArchaeologyHistoric SitesNewsPreservation

By Alice Guerrant

It’s important every so often to step back and evaluate what you’ve done so that you can see if you need to change something. Every five years, the State Historic Preservation Office leads the effort to produce a new statewide historic preservation plan. This is our chance as historic preservationists to ask what’s going well, what’s not working, and how can we improve.

I learn so much every time we go through the planning process. I meet interesting, concerned citizens who are passionate about saving places that are important to them. And even though preservation is a fairly small world in Delaware, it is very good to get together with your colleagues and find out what they’ve been doing. Communicating our frustrations, needs, and successes helps us figure out where we need to go from here.

The statewide historic preservation plan is a requirement of our federal Historic Preservation Fund grant, and every state and territory does one every so often. If you want to look at some other states’ plans, the National Park Service has a page with links to all of them.

But even though we lead the effort and write the plan, it is not for the government alone. We want a thoughtful, useful plan that can benefit preservation advocates across Delaware. It is a framework for decision-making, coordinating preservation groups and activities, and for communicating with the many groups who affect and are affected by historic preservation.



We begin by summarizing what we know about Delaware’s historic places and preservation

List successes, failures, and accomplishments since 2008
… Numbers and kinds of historic properties
… Delaware’s changing demographics and land use patterns
… Agencies and projects affecting historic properties
… Survey and public workshop responses

We then take those findings and develop goals and strategies for the next five years.

Goals are based on the major trends we’ve heard from the survey and workshops
Strategies are based on what’s workable within this planning period

Then, we actually write the plan.

We get comments on draft from preservationists, planners, members of the Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation, and others

We submit a final draft to the National Park Service for approval.

If necessary, we revise and resubmit the plan based on NPS comments in order to be approved by the December 31st deadline.

Once approved, the plan is published.

Plan is adopted officially as Delaware’s statewide historic preservation plan by the State Review Board for Historic Preservation
A digital version is posted on HCA’s web site
Hard copies are printed for distribution
Work with partners to implement the strategies

2007 Preservation Planning Meeting



Take our ON-LINE SURVEY and add your opinion right now!

Attend one of our PUBLIC MEETINGS.

E-mail us about your concerns, needs, and observations: preservationplan@delaware.gov


By this time next year, Delaware will have a new historic preservation plan.

What do you want to see in it?

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National Geographic Channel “on location” at the Johnson Victrola Museum

Written on: February 3rd, 2012 in MuseumsNews

Earlier this week, a film crew from the National Geographic Channel made a special stop at HCA’s Johnson Victrola Museum in Dover. The team is on the tail end of a tour across the country gathering footage for their new and upcoming show, America’s Lost Treasures.

That’s all we can really say, as we were sworn to secrecy by the kind folks with headphones and utility belts, but they did let us snap a few pictures before things got rolling:


We’ll keep you posted on when the show will air, but until then….

What “lost treasure” do you think brought Hollywood to Dover?

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Delaware Commemorates Black History Month

Written on: February 1st, 2012 in EducationEventsExhibitsMuseumsNews

Today marks the start of Black History Month and tomorrow Governor Jack Markell will be officially kicking things off in the First State with a public proclamation at 11AM at the Delaware Public Archives. Students from Central Middle School will join the Governor in welcoming Mr. Orlando Camp, one of the “Milford Eleven,” who will speak about his own historic role in the struggle for civil rights. Mr. Camp was one of 11 students that made history (and controversy) as the first African American students to integrate Milford High School in 1954.

The News Journal put out a great article highlighting events taking place across the state throughout the month, but here are some HCA offerings to put on your calendars:

Every Friday in February

“Freedom Fridays” at The Old State House, Dover, DE
This after-school program will explore the lives of African-Americans from throughout Delaware’s history through stories and hands-on activities.

Saturday, February 4*

“We Poor Devils” at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Dover, DE
This special presentation will utilize one of HCA’s current exhibits, The Civil War: Five Delaware Soldiers’ Stories, to explore the lives of U.S. Colored Troops who enlisted from Delaware.

“African-American Family and Underground Railroad Research—Ask the Experts!” at The Old State House, Dover, DE
This program will feature a panel discussion led by some of Delaware’s top researchers in the fields of African-American family history and the Underground Railroad.

*These events are part of First State Heritage Park’s “First Saturdays in the First State” programming. For further information on these and other programs, check out the park’s Winter Program Guide

Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012

“What Would You Take on the Underground Railroad?” at The Old State House, Dover, DE
This is an interactive program that explores the hardships endured by freedom-seeking slaves as they escaped through the state of Delaware with,

Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012

“Just an Ordinary Man: The Samuel D. Burris Story.” At The Old State House , Dover, DE
A story-telling program about the life of one of Delaware’s leading Underground Railroad conductors.

“What Would You Take on the Underground Railroad?” at New Castle Court House Museum, New Castle, DE
A n interactive program exploring the hardships endured by freedom-seeking slaves as they escaped through the state of Delaware.

Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012

“Follow the Drinking Gourd.” at New Castle Court House Museum, New Castle, DE
A children’s program explores the Underground Railroad utilizing the book, “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” followed by a tour of the exhibit “Emeline’s Story.”

Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012

“Stories of African-Americans on St. Jones Neck.” at John Dickinson Plantation, Dover, DE
Learn about the African-Americans who interacted with John Dickinson during the 18th century through Violet Brown’s recollections, Clem’s runaway-slave notice and Dinah’s life story.

“Tales of Kent County Men of Color.” at The Old State House, Dover, DE
Dramatic presentations depicting the lives of real people who lived in Kent County in the 19th century.

“USCTs of Delaware” at New Castle Court House Museum, New Castle, DE
Program exploring the United States Colored Troops from Delaware who served in the American Civil War.

Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012

“What Would You Take on the Underground Railroad?” at New Castle Court House Museum, New Castle, DE
An interactive program exploring the hardships endured by freedom-seeking slaves as they escaped through the state of Delaware followed by a tour of the exhibit “Emeline’s Story.”


For times and further information, check out our news release for Black History Month.

So that’s what we’re doing. How are you recognizing Black History Month?


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HCA Selected to Participate in National Museum Assessment Program

Written on: January 31st, 2012 in MuseumsNews

AAM Logo

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.

2012 marks the 30th year of the program, which is administered by AAM and funded by the federal Institute of Museum & Library Studies (IMLS) as part of the Institute’s National Leadership program.

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 travis.kirspel@delaware.gov. 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?

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Meet the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office

Written on: January 26th, 2012 in ArchaeologyHistoric SitesPreservation

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?

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Welcome to the Historical & Cultural Affairs Blog

Written on: January 20th, 2012 in Historic SitesMuseumsNewsPreservation

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:

  • If you live in Delaware or have had the good fortune to visit the First State, you may have seen our costumed interpreters at one of our 6 museums.
  • Perhaps you’ve seen some of our work and the state’s historical objects on display at one of those museums.
  • Maybe you’ve driven by or attended an event at the state’s beautiful Buena Vista Conference Center on Route 13 in New Castle.
  • Did you see us when you were headed to the beach on State Route 1?
  • What about your boating trip to one of our rivers, inlets, or bays? Did you see us lurking in the depths beneath you?

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:

  • Spotlight Online
    • This blog spotlights services and information to connect citizens to government.
  • Tourism
    • This blog spotlights tourism in Delaware.
  • Public Archives
    • This blog will focus on preserving Delaware history and will feature upcoming events, news, and other items of interest from the Public Archives collections
  • Cyrus Forwood – Delaware Soldier in the American Civil War
    • As part of the State of Delaware’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration, the Delaware Public Archives is using this blog to repost notes and observations Forwood wrote in his diary during his time as a soldier–day-by-day.

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



Discussion Question:

What would you like to see in a blog devoted to “Saving Delaware History?”

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