On June 21, 2018, the Delaware Senate passed Concurrent Resolution 76 recognizing the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs for achieving accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums, the highest recognition afforded to museums in the United States. The division manages the state’s five museums and its archaeological and historic-objects collections.
Speaking from the Senate floor, the resolution’s primary sponsor, state Sen. Nicole Poore, commended the division for its commitment to excellence and its dedication to upholding the highest national standards in the museum field. Division Director Tim Slavin, in turn, praised the division’s staff and volunteers for their hard work in making American Alliance of Museums accreditation possible. The resolution now moves to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
During the month of July 2018, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 19 special programs at sites across the state. A full schedule is included below. Except where noted, all programs are free and open to the public.
Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs special events, July 2018
Tuesday–Saturday, July 3–7, 2018
“Quill Pen Week.” Drop-in program in celebration of Independence Day provide’s instruction in quill-pen writing so that visitors can learn how to write like a “signer.” John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Activities 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Independence Day. All museums of the State of Delaware will be open: The Johnson Victrola Museum, open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; The Old State House, open 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; the John Dickinson Plantation, New Castle Court House Museum and the Zwaanendael Museum, open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5054.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
“Independence Day at The Old State House.” Screenings of “Thunder and Rain,” a film about Caesar Rodney’s historic ride for independence. At 2 and 4 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. 302-744-5054.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
“Stars and Stripes.” In celebration of Independence Day, guided tours explore some of Victor Records’ many recordings of patriotic music accompanied by 78-rpm records played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3262.
July 4, 2018
“Fourth of July in Historic New Castle.” Ceremony featuring keynote speaker Brian Cannon, lead interpreter for the New Castle Court House Museum, at 1:30 p.m., followed at 2 p.m. by the pealing of bells across historic New Castle and the nation as part of “Let Freedom Ring!,” a commemoration of the birth of American independence. Immanuel Episcopal Church, 100 Harmony St., New Castle. 302- 328-2413.
Thursdays, July 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2018
“Lost Off Lewes: The British Warship DeBraak.” Special tour explores the history, artifacts and surviving hull section of this 18th-century shipwreck. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. 9 a.m. Limited seating. Admission $10 (cash or check only). For reservations, e-mail email@example.com or call 302-645-1148.
Saturday, July 7, 2018
“Independence Day at The Old State House.” All-day screening of the film “Thunder and Rain” about Caesar Rodney’s historic ride to Philadelphia to break the tie for the Declaration of Independence. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5054.
Saturday, July 7, 2018
“Stars and Stripes.” Guided tours explore some of Victor Records’ many recordings of patriotic music accompanied by 78-rpm records played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3262.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
“Hamilton.” Audience-participation program by historic-site interpreter Tom Welch on the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. 5:30 p.m. Free admission but, due to space restrictions, reservations are recommended by calling 302-744-5054.
Saturday, July 14, 2018
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.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.
Saturday, July 14, 2018
“Mysteries at the Museum: ‘Blood Diamond: The Murder of Ebe Lynch.’ ” Created by museum staff, this theatrical murder-mystery is based on an actual incident that took place in Lewes in 1916 in which shots were fired and Ebe Lynch, a prominent local postmaster and president of the Lewes baseball team, was found dead. Museum visitors will serve as detectives, meeting suspects and evaluating clues to determine who committed this heinous crime. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Outdoor program at 2 p.m. on the museum’s grounds. Guests should bring lawn chairs. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Rain date: Friday, July 20 at 2 p.m. Free admission but, due to space restrictions, reservations for the play are required by calling 302-645-1148 no later than July 13, 2018.
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
“An Immigrant Story: Crossing the Atlantic in a 17th Century Sailing Ship.” Presentation by Jean Norvell on what life would be like for a two-month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the New World. New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware St., New Castle. 7 p.m. 302-323-4453.
Saturday, July 28, 2018
“Lost Off Lewes: The British Warship DeBraak.” Special tour explores the history, artifacts and surviving hull section of this 18th-century shipwreck. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. 5 p.m. Limited seating. Admission $10 (cash or check only). For reservations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 302-645-1148.
Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the five museums of the State of Delaware—the John Dickinson Plantation, the Johnson Victrola Museum, the New Castle Court House Museum, The Old State House and the Zwaanendael Museum—tell the story of the First State’s contributions to the history and culture of the United States. Through tours, exhibits, school programs and hands-on activities, the museums shine a spotlight on Delaware’s unique history and the diverse people who came to live there. The museums are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The New Castle Court House Museum and the John Dickinson Plantation are partner sites of the First State National Historical Park. The Old State House is located on the Dover Green, another partner site of the park. Go to the following for a comprehensive, long-term calendar of division-sponsored events.
The Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., is currently featuring the exhibit “Delaware Railroads: Elegant Travel and Timely Transport.” Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the exhibit utilizes photographs; and posters, tickets, timetables, maps and historical objects from the collections of the State of Delaware to tell the history of rail travel and transport in the First State. In particular, the exhibit explores four railroads that were historically important in Delaware: The New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad (1832), the Delaware Railroad (1852), the Junction and Breakwater Railroad (1857) and the Queen Anne’s Railroad (1896).
Economic growth, development and prosperity resulted from the construction of railway lines in Delaware. Due to the increased comfort and speed by which passengers and cargo could be transported, new connections to destinations and markets outside of the Delmarva Peninsula were established. This led to the development of canning companies and seafood processing plants, allowing products to be shipped to the larger metropolitan areas of Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Farmers growing peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, wheat and other produce became prosperous during the “boom” times. Later on, chickens and holly wreaths became important commodities. Passengers were able to take popular day-excursions to special events such as the World’s Fair in New York City. Railroad travel was elegant and timely. However, with the advent of improved highways, vehicles and freight trucks, rail travel in Delaware, outside the heavily utilized Northeast Corridor, ended by1950, and freight lines were significantly reduced. A bright spot remaining today is the Wilmington & Western Railroad, a popular excursion line with steam powered rides outside of Wilmington.
“Delaware Railroads: Elegant Travel and Timely Transport” opened at the Zwaanendael Museum on July 7, 2018 and will be on display for an undetermined period of time. Museum operating-hours from April 1 to 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.
Go to the following for a full listing of exhibits and displays at the museums of the State of Delaware.
Go to the following for a comprehensive, long-term calendar of events sponsored by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
Members of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs staff are mourning the loss of archaeologist Joan Parsons who passed away on June 3, 2018.
Parsons, a 1976 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology/archaeology, was a stalwart member of Delaware’s archaeological community for decades, serving for many years as president of both the Archaeological Society of Delaware and its New Castle chapter. She was also a board member of the New Sweden Centre and a volunteer at the Green Bank Mill.
According to division archaeologist Alice Guerrant, Parsons was instrumental in holding the Archaeological Society together in the 1990s after a period of declining participation. She was particularly interested in archaeology education, helping to organize lectures, seminars, festivals and activities in support of Delaware Archaeology Month. In 2013, she played a major role in the organization of the 375th Anniversary New Sweden Conference entitled “Encountering ‘Others’ in the Atlantic World: Perspectives From the Material World.”
Her energy and enthusiasm will be sorely missed.
By Doug Denison, director of community relations, Delaware Department of State
A new anthology of essays and lectures published by the Delaware Heritage Commission explores the life and career of John Dickinson, whose influential role as a Colonial patriot and statesman of the early republic earned him the nickname “Penman of the Revolution.”
“Delaware’s John Dickinson: The Constant Watchman of Liberty” commemorates the 250th anniversary of the publication of Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies,” the first widely-read treatise laying out the American cause for unity in resistance to British colonial oppression, published in the winter of 1767-68. The 186-page, hardcover volume explores Dickinson’s legacy through the writings of noted Dickinson scholars and eminent Delawareans, including a preface by Gov. John Carney.
“John Dickinson, in many ways, was the architect of what we now call the ‘Delaware Way.’ He sought compromise, took nuanced political stances without regard to partisanship, and put his country over his political beliefs,” said Gov. Carney. “I want to thank The Friends of the John Dickinson Mansion, the Delaware Heritage Commission and my friend, John Sweeney, for putting together this book about one of the little known giants of American history.”
“Believe it or not, Delawareans often ask me ‘Who was John Dickinson?’ Here was a Delawarean who fought slavery when people like Washington and Jefferson accepted it. Here was a man who demanded freedom of religion for all when other Founding Fathers were willing to impose their beliefs on others. Here was a man who led the fight to enshrine individual rights in the U.S. Constitution,” said the book’s editor, John Sweeney, a Dickinson scholar and former editor at the Wilmington News Journal. “And that’s only a small portion of what he did for us, for our freedom. Delawareans should not only know who he was, they should be proud of him and they should point to him as example of what a political leader should be.”
“Dickinson is simply the greatest political thinker and writer ever associated with our state. He was also an active participant in the great events of his era, which led to the founding of our nation,” said Battle Robinson, retired Family Court judge and past president of the Friends of the John Dickinson Mansion, who penned the book’s introduction. “In commissioning this book, the Friends of the Dickinson Mansion hope to make Dickinson and his many contributions better known and appreciated.”
The publication features contributions from former Delaware governors J. Caleb Boggs, Charles L. Terry Jr. and Russell W. Peterson; former Delaware Supreme Court justices Randy J. Holland, Richard S. Rodney and James M. Tunnell, Jr.; historians Jane E. Calvert, Milton E. Flower, John A. Munroe, J.H. Powell, Frederick B. Tolles and Edwin Wolf II; Harold L. Rubendall, former president of Dickinson College; and Gloria Henry and Vertie Lee of the John Dickinson Plantation.
“The title of a recent article about Dickinson by John Sweeney reads, ‘The Most Important Founding Father You’ve Never Heard Of.’ It’s sadly true that Delaware’s John Dickinson has gotten short shrift from most historians since his death in 1808,” said Dick Carter, chairman of the Delaware Heritage Commission. “Dickinson was indeed one of the central figures in the creation of the United States of America. I hope that this new book will begin the much-needed and long overdue process of giving this great Delaware statesman the attention his remarkable life so richly deserves. It has been a real honor to have been involved in its publication.”
The book was commissioned by the Friends of the John Dickinson Mansion, a nonprofit, charitable organization dedicated to the extension of knowledge about Dickinson and the preservation of his historic home, now a state museum. The book was produced as a joint effort of the Friends, the Delaware Department of State and the Delaware Heritage Commission.
-Partner site of the First State National Historical Park to host summer 2018 events-
Fort Christina National Historic Landmark, a property of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and a partner site of the First State National Historical Park, is offering visitors access to one of the cornerstones of Delaware history and an expanded schedule of activities from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends. Building on last year’s success, Fort Christina is now staffed by guides from the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation who offer free interpretive tours and special programs for the public. Children can also earn Junior Ranger badges on the first Saturdays in June, July and August. This special heritage site marks the approximate location where a group of Swedish and Finnish colonists from the ships Kalmar Nyckel and Fogel Grip landed on a natural wharf of “blue rocks” in 1638. It was here that the first Swedish settlement in America began—the first permanent European settlement in Delaware.
Located at 1110 E. Seventh St. in Wilmington, Del., next to the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation and Copeland Maritime Center, Fort Christina will be open between May 26 and Sept. 3 on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 12 to 4 p.m. (closed on July 4). Admission is free to all visitors.
As part of its new 2018 summer hours, Fort Christina will host a series of “First Saturdays” celebrations open to the public. On June 2, “Celebrate Sweden” will mark the founding of the colony of New Sweden (now Delaware) and the anniversary of the site as a park. “Celebrate Pirates” at the Wilmington Pirate Festival will be hosted on Saturday, July 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with family-centered activities and ship tours at the Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard and Fort Christina. The event promises to bring an exciting day of pirate-themed ship tours, demonstrations, games and crafts as well as live music, face painting, food and beverages. The event is open to the public with free admission and fees for some activities. August will bring “Celebrate National Park Service” on Saturday, Aug. 4 in recognition of the anniversary of the founding of the U.S. parks system. Educational tours and a variety of activities will be posted at www.KalmarNyckel.org as they are announced.
In 2016, Fort Christina re-opened as one of several statewide components of the First State National Historical Park and part of a parallel effort to create a first class historical and cultural destination on Wilmington’s East Seventh Street peninsula. The goal is to integrate and develop the historic and cultural attractions of the Kalmar Nyckel shipyard campus, Fort Christina, Old Swedes Church and the Hendrickson House, along with the Christina River water taxi and other Riverfront attractions. Organizations working to make this dream a reality include the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, the National Park Service, Old Swedes Foundation and the Riverfront Development Corporation.