A first in the First State

Marvin Bond

via Winterthur Museum on Facebook.

For a small state, Delaware has an amazing number and variety of museums. From the du Pont family mansions like Hagley, Winterthur, and Nemours in the north to the Discoversea Shipwreck Museum near the southern border, there are private and public museums relating to art, natural history, social history, and myriad other areas of interest.

Recreation News editor Marvin Bond
Recreation News editor Marvin Bond

The newest is the Delaware History Museum and the state’s first Center for African-American Heritage that opened Oct. 1 in Wilmington. The project of the Delaware Historical Society transformed an old Woolworth’s store into a sparkling tribute to the state while detailing what you probably don’t know about it.

The exhibition, “Delaware: One State, Many Stories,” takes you on a vivid journey through galleries that engage visitors on many levels, according to the historical society’s chief curator, Leigh Rifenburg.

A wall of revolving faces greets visitors to the museum; famous and less-well-known Delawarians, many of whose contributions are noted in the galleries. From Colonial leaders to soldiers from the nation’s wars to musicians such as Cab Calloway and Clifford Brown, the many faces and stories from Delaware’s past come to life.

The Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage includes “Journey to Freedom,” part of the Delaware History Museum’s exhibits, telling the story of the state’s African-Americans from the very first to arrive, a free man known only as Black Anthony, through the enslavement period and the Civil Rights era.

The New Delaware History Museum is part of the Delaware Historical Society’s complex in Downtown Wilmington. The complex includes the adjacent Old Town Hall, built at the end of the 18th century, which houses exhibitions, the research library, and Willington Square, a collection of four historic buildings dating to the mid- to late-1700s and moved to the location in 1976. The society also operates the George Reed House and Gardens in New Castle, a Federal-style mansion surrounded by 1 1/2 acres of formal gardens.

Currier and Ives at Winterthur

Currier and Ives may seem synonymous with the holiday season, and Winterthur — yet another of Delaware’s museum treasures, just outside Wilmington — offers an exhibition of 40 works that investigate the role of Frances Bond Palmer and Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (two of the most prolific artists of Currier and Ives) in the New York art world of the Victorian era.

“Lasting Impressions” will be on view at Winterthur through Jan. 8 and includes works from the museum and private collections.

Palmer and Tait produced some of today’s most sought-after prints: the delicately colored Long Island sporting scenes drawn on stone by Palmer from her own sketches; Tait’s vibrant depictions of animals observed up-close in the Adirondacks of northern New York; and Palmer’s dramatic nocturne landscapes evocative of the era’s fascination with the power of steam on land and water.

The exhibition also features several multimedia installations, including a video documenting the history of Currier and Ives and interactive touch screens that encourage viewers to explore conservation findings and physical evidence of the artistic process.

Coming next month:

  • Civil War section
  • Mid-Atlantic skiing
  • Small-town Pennsylvania Christmas

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