Posts Tagged ‘Museum’


A New Kind of Club….

January 29, 2010

Students Examining Old Image of Their School, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

I am very excited about a new partnership between the us here at the Delaware Historical Society and middle school students and P.S. DuPont. Together, we have formed a history club. The club was the idea of Kelly Whitaker – an absolutely extraordinary 6th grade teacher! Because P.S. DuPont just switched from an elementary school to a middle school – she thought having a history club would be a great way to build a sense of community, history education…and FUN!

Visiting the Jail Cells
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
What is it?
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
Locked Up
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

We will all be meeting together – students, teachers, parents, and historical society staff members – once a month and learning about a variety of topics. Our first gathering was two weeks ago and we provided a general overview of the historical society. I gave a tour of the museum, students explored some of our artifacts more indepth, and we also shared with them old photographs including daguerreotypes, tintypes, negatives ,etc. (The image above shows students examining old images of their school when it was first constructed!)

We had a great group! For me, it was exciting to hear the students talk about when they visited the museum in 3rd grade or 4th grade for a field trip. I was impressed (and thrilled) by how much they remembered. Most rewarding, was watching the students feel comfortable in the museum and begin to take ownership of it. The museum is – after all – a place for them, their histories, and their stories!

I’m looking forward to our February meeting where we’ll be learning about the Underground Railroad.

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

Here is a Smile Box Album from our history club!

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The Best Part of My Day….

December 10, 2009

Student Report Card #2, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

When students come to visit us at the Delaware History Museum, we’re always interested in what they think! At the end of the day we give each teacher in attendance an evaluation for them to fill out and history museum report cards for students to rate us on how we did. Sometimes the returned student report cards are just priceless – such as these from 4th graders at Maple Lane Elementary School. Just in case you can’t decipher everything that they students drew/or are talking about…I’ll help you out along the way!

This particular report card is amazing in it’s accuracy. In our permanent exhibition (Distinctively Delaware) we have a cut out of a longhouse with skins on the floor and stretched out to dry. I think this student did a fabulous job depicting our longhouse and even used her imagination to fill in some Lenni Lenape hanging out inside.

We have some additional student report cards posted on our Flickr photostream:  I’m so happy by how accurate some of the images are!  My favorite drawing depicts a student and a museum guide.  It’s very detailed (this child had talent) although I have to admit I don’t know who this tall, skinny, brunette with shoulder length hair is supposed to depict.  Maybe I’ll ask my guide staff to fight it out amongst the 3 of them!!!!  I wish I could say it was me!!!!

As for the question “what was the best part of your day?”  How are these answers for some cute points:

  • “Eating lunch with my uncle”
  • “The best part of my day would be everything!”

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea (Delaware Historical Society)

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The Bancrofts

December 1, 2009

Samuel Bancroft House, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

December Greetings! It’s officially the holiday season- hoorah!

I am in the process of cataloguing the Stereocard Collection. The Society owns approximately 250 of these cards- most were produced in the third quarter of the 19th century. They were made with a special camera that had two lenses very near one another. When the photographer took his photograph, he actually took two nearly identical images. The two were developed and mounted on a card. The cards used were of various sizes and measured about 7” wide by about 3 ½” high. They were viewed through a special contraption- a handle with glasses and an easel holder for the card. The viewer slid the easel closer or further from the “glasses” until the image appeared as a three-dimensional view. To us today, these stereopticon cards are cool, fun and very entertaining! But put yourself in the shoes of people who didn’t have television or movies and imagine what fun they were. When I was a small girl, my mom went on a steroptican kick and bought a viewer and some cards- I loved them! She bought a lot of western scenes showing people posed precariously on the tops of mountains and canyons and views of people at Niagara Falls. Even for a little girl in the 1970s- these cards provided a chance to get away and see things that were exciting and even thrilling.

Back to Delaware and the Historical Society and Cuadra Star (alas- a few moments with the thrill seekers atop the Grand Canyon and my mind starts to feel wanderlust…). Anyway, I’m working on a tiny collection of five cards donated by the Bancroft family. The Bancrofts, a Quaker family, had a very successful milling business along the Brandywine River just west of Wilmington. In 1831 Joseph Bancroft founded a cotton mill at Rockford, Delaware. Daily operations were based on the British methods of spinning and weaving. Bancroft’s sons William Poole Bancroft (1835-1928) and Samuel Bancroft, Jr. (1840-1915) became partners in the Rockford factory, which became Joseph Bancroft & Sons. In 1889 the business was incorporated, and was known thereafter as Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company.

This collection of five cards show views of the homes and mills before the company was incorporated. The one that caught my eye is a view of the home of Samuel Bancroft Jr. At 26 he married and had a house built for the couple. A hand-written note on the reverse of the card tells the story: “Samuel Bancroft and Mary R. Richardson were married June 8, 1865 and moved into this house in February 1866- this house being built for them and they occupied the “Fulton house” until this house was ready for them. Samuel Bancroft is sitting on the porch. This was the beginning of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bancroft Jr.”

As an aside- most Delawareans would know Samuel and Mary Bancroft for their interest and generosity to the arts community. Samuel became fascinated with Pre-Raphaelite art and amassed the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art outside the United Kingdom. His donation of the collection and eleven acres of land was the impetus for the Delaware Art Museum in the 1930s.


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An Intern’s Work is Never Done….

November 16, 2009

Meaghan prepares wash house for November and December school programs., originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

I can’t believe that this semester is half way over already! With all the excitement here at the Read House, time has been flying by so quickly. There have been so many things for me to get involved with between research, cleaning, moving collections back and forth, and just talking with everyone here about the changes underway at the house.

I know more about windows than I thought I would ever need to know, and I could tell you which type of duster to use for finished wood and which type for unfinished wood. While this all seems like arbitrary information, it comes in handy actually working with the objects in the house. It’s great to be able to take everything that I’ve been learning in my classes and see how they can relate to actual real world experiences.

There is so much more that goes into planning and maintaining a historic house than I would have imagined. While I’ve worked as a tour guide before, I am seeing all the behind the scenes aspects of interpreting the stories that are a part of the tours. That’s really what I’ve been exposed to more than anything. I’m learning how museums go about interpreting the past and connecting it to the present. This includes interaction with the community and responding to the needs and interests of visitors.

Every day there is a new project to get involved in, or an event going on to sit in on. Last month I had the opportunity to sit in on a staff meeting and learn about (and be completely overwhelmed by) the new cataloging system which is going to make the collections of the Delaware Historic Society more accessible to the public. I also joined up with a class of college students from Wesley University that came to visit. They were concentrating on professions in the field of history—which is pretty relevant, as I’m graduating with a history degree from the University of Delaware in the spring, and should start thinking about what I’m going to do next year.

I guess to sum it up, my experience so far has taught me a few things. On the surface I am learning how to care for historic pieces: how to clean them, how to handle them, etc. More importantly, however, everything that visitors see when they visit a museum or historic house is there for a reason. Historians interpret the past and in museums, they tell this story through objects. While scholars may write an article about family relationships at the turn of the nineteenth century, museums can give a sense of family through the placement of books and globes around a table, as in the Read House. There are countless stories that could be told, and so museums interact with the public to tell the ones that are most relevant to the community.

I am glad to be a part of this interaction and I am looking forward to the second half of my stay here.

Meaghan O’Connor
Material Culture Studies Intern

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Fall Fest Preparations

November 5, 2009

Chris and Curtis Ready to Play Duck Hunt, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Take Aim
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

The staff and volunteers of the Delaware Historical Society are busy this week preparing for the City of Wilmington’s Fall Fest this Saturday. Yesterday the Howard School of Technology Service Learning students, Chris and Curtis helped paint boxes for a bean bag toss. They also tried the nerf “duck shoot.” We made the game pretty difficult, Curtis succeeded after 12 attempts- can you beat that? The object is to shoot through the holes next to the sitting ducks. We just didn’t have the heart to shoot a duck! We are soft, animal loving people through and through! Hey- is that so bad?

Here are Curtis and Chris posing with the nerf guns- they loved the game we’re pretty sure you will too!

We’re also trying to construct Lucy, a 55’ long whale. Wish us luck- as Saturday draws near- we need your good wishes and Lucy’s cooperation. It’s hard to birth a 55’ whale- full grown and

Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

made of plastic. Come down to the Society this Saturday- we’ll have live animals (not plastic, we promise) from the Brandywine Zoo, a table from the Delaware Natural History Museum, and many other attractions including Newfoundland dogs and rescue dogs. All that- and our smiling faces. We hope you’ll join us. It’s free!

For more about the City’s programs, check this out:

Until next time,

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Minding Our C’s

September 21, 2009

Dormer Detail Revealed, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

This week I was reminded of the importance of coordination and communication on a preservation project the size of ours. Looking at the big picture, this week three masons continued repointing work, up to five painters concentrated on paint removal from the façade cornice, and two carpenters continued removing window sashes on the interior. In addition, mid-week five or so workers joined the activity on site to erect more scaffolding on the north elevation main block. Generally I marvel at the enormity of the Read House, but with the varied activity this week, it seemed painfully small at times!

Again this week the masons split their time between repointing the south wall main block on the days we were closed to the public and on other spot areas away from the public entrance during our open hours. For the painters, meanwhile, many hands made more efficient work on the fifty-odd foot length of façade cornice, where they carefully removed paint from the intricate details. I walked outside yesterday to check their progress and observed four painters lined up in a row, each working diligently on his section of the cornice, yet even during the hard work one of the painters was singing a cheery tune.

Inside, our staff and the carpenters successfully danced around each other as the carpenters continued their work in the main block of the house. The carpentry crew began their week completing sash removal in the second floor southwest chamber, installing plexiglass in place of three bottom sashes to allow continued viewing of the garden and to admit needed light for the second floor. They also began removal of the Palladian window located at the primary staircase landing between first and second floors. With the removal of these massive main block windows the carpenters have also assumed the task of scraping to prepare the window frame for later painting. Scraping is no easy or fast task, especially on a monumental window such as the Palladian, with its combination of main window sashes and compass head plus sidelights.

The next window sashes scheduled for removal were in our housekeeper’s office, but by Tuesday’s end, the Palladian window was not finished. We faced a dilemma because both windows are located in pass-through areas of the house that could impede visitor traffic once we opened to the public for our normal hours on Wednesday. In addition, after removal of the housekeeper’s office sashes the carpenters were scheduled to remove the sashes from the back parlor. With four massive windows—two with three sashes apiece—the back parlor required almost complete collections furniture removal to ensure safety. Where was the designated furniture storage area for the back parlor collections? The second floor southwest chamber. What route did we need to take to transport the furniture? The main staircase by the Palladian window. Our original plan called for moving the furniture on Wednesday morning before the museum opening while the carpenters were working out of our way on the housekeeper’s office window.

Rainy Day Carpentry Inside Read House
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

Now it seemed we faced a real dilemma. Oh, and did I mention that we also had a reserved group scheduled to tour the house on Wednesday one hour before we normally open to the public? Luckily, our team works well together. We decided that the housekeeper’s office window should wait until the following Monday and Tuesday, when we would again be closed, for removal. Meanwhile we routed the tour group up one set of backstairs so that the carpenters could continue work on the Palladian window. The carpenters cleaned up their area prior to their lunch break, however, at which point our maintenance superintendent and I moved furniture from the back parlor to the southwest chamber directly above it via the main staircase. This also enabled our guide to bring the reserved group down the main staircase after completing the second floor tour. Our guides, of course, are well versed at interpreting around behind-the-scenes work necessary for historic house upkeep, so even our back and forth movement with collections pieces did not prevent an expert interpretation for the reserved group. After we completed the collections furniture move the carpenters were able to complete their work on the Palladian window before our next tour. Phew—crisis averted!

As of today, Friday, the carpenters continued to work on sash removal in the back parlor. The sashes have been removed and frames scraped on three of the windows. At the beginning of next week while the carpenters fabricate plexiglass inserts for the middle sashes of our two expansive jib windows, painters should be painting the interior frames. The carpenters will take time this afternoon to load more window sashes into our construction managers truck so that he can deliver them to the carpentry shop for repair.

My closing perspective for the week echoes the theme of coordination. Today I spent about a half hour on the scaffolding with our construction manager looking at various architectural elements including the dormers, kitchen chimney, and front cornice. Seeing the structure in various stages of repair emphasized the importance of different building elements functioning effectively together to create a sound, as well as aesthetically pleasing, exterior envelope. I think we’re well on our way.

Until next time…


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Just Milling Around…

August 28, 2009

Forge at Blacksmith Shop, Newlin Grist Mill, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

On Monday, August 24th, 2009 at 11:45, where were the Delaware Historical Society Education and Inspiration Team??

Newlin Mill
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

We were celebrating Guide Appreciation Day! We received a personal tour of the Newlin Grist Mill from Tony Shahan, Director of Newlin Grist Mill and ate a picnic lunch under the shady trees of their lovely park.

The Newlin Mill was built in 1704, by a Quaker, Nathaniel Newlin, second generation of the original settlers in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The Grist Mill ground corn and other grains into flour. While the original stone building was added onto (more space for higher production), Newlin became one of the largest landowners in the county by 1724, eventually with 7,750 acres- known as Newlin Township today. Business was booming; Newlin added a granary, tavern, and a second mill. The mill is known to have helped to feed the American Soldiers during their long winter in Valley Forge. The mill passed through a few subsequent owners, was leased to millers, in 1858 the Markham Railway Station (now the visitor’s center) was built and provided great business for the mill. The Newlin Grist Mill was in operation from 1704 until 1941!

Miller's House 1739 Newlin
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

Lucky for us (and for you too), we can still see an operational mill today! Mortimer Newlin (8th generation) purchased the mill in 1956 and restored the Mill. Thanks to the Nicholas Newlin Foundation for preserving the 150 acres of land and all of the buildings which make up the historic complex there at Newlin!

Mill Wheel, Newlin
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

We were having hands-on fun feeling the different textures of the corn flour as it was produced. Watching the water rush onto the mill wheel and turn the 1500 pound, 8 foot high wooden wheel! Many of us were taking notes and jotting down new vocabulary words: such as gudgeon: a metal pivot at the end of a shaft or an axle, around which a wheel turns. And Gneiss: a metamorphic rock: good for using as mill stones as it high on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.

We were pleased to see the historic Miller’s House, 1739, and a lovely piece of furniture with rat-tailed hinges (some of us seeing those hinges for the first time in person)!

Blacksmith Shop @ Newlin
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

It was a beautiful day to tour the site, seeing the historic houses on the property and the awesome outdoor kitchen. We even got to watch their blacksmith, Kelly Smyth, forging her “S” hooks; we were impressed by her talent. Newlin Grist Mill sells their corn flour in their gift shop! We thank Tony for his educational hospitality!


Photographs taken by: Dawn Barbes, Education Guide for the Read House and Gardens.

For more information on the Newlin Grist Mill:

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