EXHIBIT CLOSED June 30, 2016
The contributions of Middletown, Del.’s military veterans from the Revolutionary War to the present were explored in the exhibit, “Middletown Goes to War,” that was on display from May 23, 2014 to June 30, 2016 at the Middletown Historical Society, located at 216 N. Broad St. in Middletown, Del.
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 examined the contributions of this small Delaware town to the American war effort, and shined 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.”
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.