The Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., is currently featuring the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” which explores 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 remaining section of the ship’s hull and associated artifact collection have been curated by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs since they were acquired by state of Delaware in 1992.
Because it is the only ship of its type that has been recovered anywhere in the world, the DeBraak represents a significant source of historical information on Royal Navy sloops of war, the fast and agile, yet well-armed, vessels that were seeing expanded service during the French Revolutionary Wars (1793-1801). The exhibit tells the story of the vessel, its place within the Royal Navy and the broader historical context within which it operated in the Atlantic World of the late 18th century. Exhibited items shed light on shipboard life and the material culture of the DeBraak’s officers and crew, while hull materials illustrate the many technological advances that were taking place in shipbuilding in the late 18th century. Between June and September, the division also offers lecture/tours of the remaining section of the ship’s hull which is curated in a facility located in Cape Henlopen State Park.
“A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” was created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team working together with the staff of the Zwaanendael Museum. The exhibit opened on Dec. 1, 2012 and will be on display for an undetermined period of time. Museum operating-hours from April 1 through Oct. 31 are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. From Nov. 1 through March 31, museum operating hours are Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.
The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael, established by the Dutch along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) in 1631. Designed by E. William Martin (architect of Legislative Hall and the Hall of Records in Dover), the museum is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, and features a stepped facade gable with carved stonework and decorated shutters. The museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history.