Delaware History Makers Award 2021

A woman wearing a coral shirt with her hands crossed in front of her body, resting on a suface

July 7, 2021 — The 2021 Delaware History Makers Award Honoring Velma P. Scantlebury, M.D., Former Associate Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Christiana Care will take place on October 7, 2021.

Dr. Scantlebury became the nation’s first woman transplant surgeon of African-American descent in 1989 and has performed more than 1,000 kidney transplants. She earned her medical degree from Columbia University and completed her residency at Harlem Hospital Center in New York. Dr. Scantlebury performed her training in transplant surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. A fellow of the American College of Surgeons ad the American Society of Minority Health an Transplant Professionals, among other organizations. Co-author of more than 85 peer-reviewed papers and 10 monographs and book chapters, Dr. Scantlebury sits on numerous boards and committees, including Donate Life American, the National Minority Organ and Tissue Transplant Education Program, and the United Network for Organ Sharing. Dr. Scantlebury has served as a national spokesperson for Linkages to Life, an initiative to address the shortage of African-American organ donors and has been recognized as one of the Best Doctors in American by BestDoctors.com.

The Delaware History Museum, Mitchell Center, Old Town Hall, and the Research Library Re-Opening June 16th

We are pleased to welcome you back to the Delaware Historical Society!

Please note that all guests are required to wear masks while touring the museum. Your tour time is for your group only. No other guests will be in the museum while your group is on tour. Each tour is 45 minutes.

Thank you for helping us maintain Covid protocols for the safety and enjoyment of all guests.

Read House & Gardens Open Air Tours

OPEN-AIR TOURS:
Saturdays & Sundays at 11 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.
Beginning April 17, 2021

Join us for a guided walk departing Saturdays and Sundays from the Read House steps. Tours begin with a look inside a few of our most iconic rooms and continue with an easy stroll along the town’s storied cobblestone streets. You’ll discover how the Read House and its inhabitants over the years were at the center of tastemaking, preservation, and the famously historic vibes of the New Castle we see today.

New this season:

Sunday 11 a.m. Tour
Open-Air I-Spy Adventure!

For the young, or young at heart – participartory and fun, Sunday morning tours will include all the same great stops and information, explored through the lens of our favorite game!

All Tours
Audio App Availability

To make your visit more comfortable, all of our tours now include the option to amplify your guide’s voice using your personal mobile device.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner] [/vc_column][/vc_row]

Read House & Gardens HVAC Project Completion

March 15, 2021 The Delaware Historical Society is pleased to announce that the National Historic Landmark George Read II House has completed an innovative and historically sensitive mechanical upgrade to replace failing systems, improve energy efficiency, and ultimately preserve the historic house’s delicate interiors and collections. This project, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, has been in progress for more than eight years.

The multi-year plan included HVAC improvements, new control systems, upgrades to fire detection, and measures to better seal the building envelope to moisture, pests, and outside air. Together, these components will improve and stabilize the preservation environment, safeguard collections against disaster, and help the Read House to manage energy consumption more responsibly. Using up-to-date technology, the new mechanical systems will create micro-environments throughout the house that distinguish between collections needs in museum rooms and personal comfort in the visitor area, classrooms, and offices.

This important project was made possible thanks to generous funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Chichester DuPont Foundation, Crystal Trust, Welfare Foundation, and individual donors.

Located on The Strand in historic New Castle, the Read House was built between 1797 and 1804 for the son of George Read, Sr., a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The outstanding Federal-era architecture and interiors, the grounds, and gardens, and extensive archives that document the building and the three families who occupied the residence, make the site invaluable for the study of early American history and culture. Since the Delaware Historical Society opened the Read House & Gardens in 1976, students, scholars, and visitors from around the world have visited and conducted research.

Executive Director, Dr. David W. Young said, “We are very proud of the local and national support this critical preservation project has received, from Laird family descendants and regional foundations to the National Endowment for the Humanities. The team assembled to complete the project worked closely with Read House and Delaware Historical Society staff and volunteers who share our commitment to bring state-of- the-art environmental systems to protect the architecture and collections of this National Historic Landmark.”

Martha Moffat, Director of Buildings and Grounds added, “There’s been a big change at the Read House, and even minor change does not come easily to a National Historic Landmark. After eight years of thoughtful planning followed by six months of Covid-19 safe construction due to the pandemic, a new energy efficient climate control system has been ever so carefully inserted into the building. A large and talented team made a concerted effort to meet the challenge of installing a new HVAC system while adhering to the highest standards of historic preservation. I congratulate and send my hearty thanks to our general contractor; the mechanical, electrical, and structural engineers; fine arts handlers; conservators; architects; carpenters; plasterers; painters; electricians; mechanical installers; plus staff and volunteers.”

The Read House is especially significant in understanding the evolution of American architecture during the early years of the nation. The construction of the house is documented in more than 130 letters, drawings, and invoices housed at the Delaware Historical Society’s research library along with related materials dating from the founding fathers to the present day. More than 1,700 collection items are currently on exhibit in the house.

“This project has been eight years in the making and is better for all of the expert problem-solving that has come together during that time. Philip and Lydia Laird, the last private owners of the Read House, took even longer to settle on the Delaware Historical Society as its long-term steward, a responsibility we take very seriously. This project will not only ensure the most comprehensive climate control the house and its contents have ever enjoyed—it will also set the stage for a program of high-caliber exhibitions, collaborations, and collection development that better our community in Delaware and beyond.” remarked Brenton Grom, Director of the Read House & Garden.

Project planning volunteer Jerry Bilton added, “This has been one of the best experiences of my life. . . I have had such a positive experience with the Delaware Historical Society and am grateful to know that it is in excellent professional hands.”

Students, neighbors, scholars, and tourists of all ages gain new perspectives on history, nature, and the role of Delaware in the life of the nation at the Read House. Guests marvel at the plasterwork and the ornamental woodwork—the largest known concentration of punch-and-gouge carving, a style developed by American carpenters to emulate high-style British neoclassicism. Furnishings, prints and paintings, books, textiles, and hand-painted wallpaper all give voice to a site interpretation that spans more than 200 years. The Read House collections provide opportunities for interpretive tours, wide-ranging research in the humanities and STEM fields, undergraduate and post-graduate training, and educational programming in which students participate in onsite object- and inquiry-based learning.

About the Delaware Historical Society

The Delaware Historical Society owns and operates the Delaware History Museum; the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage; a nationally recognized Research Library; Old Town Hall; Willingtown Square, four 18th-century houses surrounding a picturesque urban courtyard located in downtown Wilmington; and the Read House & Gardens, a National Historic Landmark.

For more information, call (302) 655-7161, email deinfo@dehistory.org or visit www.dehistory.org

Black History Month with the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage

January 21, 2021 – The Mitchell Center continues to be strengthened by community partnerships that support our mission of collecting, preserving, and sharing to the public Delaware’s African American History. We will be offering programs that are engaging, interactive, and provocative in a virtual space.

We are excited to present our programs for Black History Month 2021. Below are the events we have planned for February, please join us!

What will your Journey to Freedom look like?

Explore Delaware’s African American history by viewing “Journey to Freedom: The African American Experience in Delaware” which is available on the Delaware Historical Society YouTube channel. On Feb. 2nd at 4pm, join Kobe Baker, MCAAH Outreach Coordinator, to learn about the history of the Mitchell Center and our current initiatives. FREE Suggested Donation $5. Registration via Zoom Webinar is required.

Black History Month Dance Workshop

Join the Mitchell Center and Pieces of a Dream, Inc. for two workshops that connect art and dance. Using select prints from the Delaware Historical Society collections by local artist Gertrude Howland Balch (1909-1964), attendees will connect candid close-ups of Wilmington’s neighborhoods and scenes from Wilmington’s Eastside to movement before being divided into groups to discuss how the art and movement help them connect to their current neighborhood. Suggested Donation $10. Saturday, February 6, 2021, 1-2 p.m. Registration required via ZOOM; Registration is limited to 50 people. Saturday, February 20, 2021, 1-2 p.m. Registration required via ZOOM; Registration is limited to 50 people.

MCAAH launches new blog

At the Journey to Freedom Blog, we aim to create a culture of continual learning through the exploration of the stories found in Delaware’s African American history and engage our community with exclusive Mitchell Center content. Be sure to check out our latest posts!

Unequal Justice in Delaware

If you missed our Unequal Justice in Delaware virtual panel discussion, you can view the recording on the Mitchell Center blog.

Black History on social media

Be sure to follow the Mitchell Center on Twitter (@MCAAH_DHS) and Facebook (@MitchellCenterAfricanAmericanHeritageDHS) where we will highlight key figures in Delaware’s African American History!

Underground Railroad & More Stay-At-Home Enrichment Packets

Teachers & Homeschoolers – the Delaware Historical Society has your history lessons covered with our Stay-at-home Enrichment Packets – get all the info you need to teach Delaware’s history to your students.

COVID Chronicles DE

Your stories and experiences can serve as an original source of information about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and response. Documenting and submitting your first-hand accounts and photos will help future students, teachers, and researchers analyze and interpret the complexity of this moment and having a diverse array of perspectives will help us tell a complete story. Share your pandemic story: https://covidchroniclesde.org/.

About The Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage

The purpose of the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage is to collect, preserve, research, and present for public enrichment the history and heritage of Delaware’s African Americans and it is headquartered on the Delaware Historical Society’s Wilmington campus in the Delaware History Museum.

About The Delaware History Museum

The Delaware Historical Society owns and operates the Delaware History Museum; the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage; a nationally recognized Research Library; Old Town Hall; Willingtown Square, four 18th-century houses surrounding a picturesque urban courtyard located in downtown Wilmington; and the National Historic Landmark, Read House & Gardens located in Old New Castle. For more information, call (302) 655-7161, email deinfo@dehistory.org, or visit www.dehistory.org.

Delaware National History Day Winners Announced

APRIL 30, 2020, Contest Held Online Due to Pandemic – COVID-19 did not stop Delaware students from researching and preparing projects for the Delaware National History Day state contest, which for more than 20 years has been organized by the Delaware Historical Society.

Each year, the national organization selects a theme to help students direct their research. This year’s theme was “Breaking Barriers in History” and students focused on the familiar like Rosa Parks or Susan B. Anthony, to more obscure topics like Hollywood Actress Anna May Wong and ocean acoustics.

Faced with cancellation because of the pandemic, DHS quickly switched gears and created a virtual contest. Though many projects were already uploaded into a registration system, others had to be submitted via email or shared through Google Drive. Students sent exhibits as PowerPoints or Google slide presentations, PDF papers, scripts for performances, documentaries and website links.

“Students stepped up to get their projects in, despite hurdles due to Covid-19,” said Rebecca Fay, Director of Education for DHS. “These students deserve special recognition.” (See below for list of category winners and the special awards winners, which are sponsored by local organizations and institutions that help support the program).

The contest is normally a day-long, large event held at a school with students presenting their projects to dozens of librarians, historians, and other volunteers who serve as judges. The contest was to have been held earlier this month.

“The Delaware Historical Society staff and volunteer judges look forward to National History Day each year as an opportunity to see how students bring their own fresh perspective to the theme,” said David Young, executive director of DHS. “We are always excited to see the creativity involved in the projects and we invariably learn something new…..Thank you teachers, thank you students, and thank you parents who, despite the challenges of online learning, uncertainty, and fear, carried on with National History Day projects and participated in our 2020 contest. Your perseverance is admirable and deeply appreciated.”

National History Day is a non-profit education organization based in College Park, Maryland. NHD offers year-long academic programs that engage over half a million middle- and high-school students around the world annually in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Since 1974, NHD has continuously improved history education by providing professional development opportunities and curriculum materials for educators.

The Delaware Historical Society’s Response to Covid-19

MARCH 27, 2020 – The Delaware Historical Society is temporarily closed to the public as a precaution related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

All scheduled programs and events have been cancelled or postponed. We are committed to supporting the nation’s efforts to control the spread of the virus, and will continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and state health organizations.

In the meantime, we encourage you to stay connected with us online through our social media channels.

Just as in similar crises we have faced throughout history, this is an opportunity for us to rise to the occasion. One day, we will look back and remember how we came together as a community, in our nation, and across the world. Our contributions may appear inconsequential on the surface—but every small act of not doing, or helping another, will ripple through Delaware and the nation.

While the Delaware History Museum, Mitchell Center, Research Library, and Read House are closed, our staff is still at work fulfilling our mission to preserve, promote, and share Delaware’s history. We look forward to resuming full operations.

Thank you.

David W. Young, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Message to the community

March 12, 2020 – We want you to assure you that Delaware Historical Society, Read House & Gardens, and Mitchell Center for African American Heritage are dedicated to the health and safety of our visitors, staff, and volunteers. We are monitoring COVID-19 and proactively following CDC guidelines. We have reviewed with our employees the recommended precautions and best practices listed on the Center for Disease Control website and will be performing enhanced routine cleanings of frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, handles, and restroom areas. Additional wipes and sanitizer stations have been ordered and will be stationed at various locations inside our museums.

No one can stop the spread of illness, but we are doing our best to keep our members, volunteers, and staff healthy. The health and safety of our members and audiences remains our top priority, and you can help by staying home if you are not feeling well.

We do not know how this virus will unfold in our area, but please be sure that we will continue to communicate with you on any relevant developments related to our upcoming spring programming, fundraising events, and museum and library hours.

Public programs and rental events will be updated regularly. Please see our website and social media.

In addition, we are taking these following proactive steps:

  • We are postponing or rescheduling non-essential programs or events and limit or eliminate the sharing of food at the ones that remain on the calendar.
  • If staff members feel unwell, they are encouraged to stay home or work remotely.
  • The library and museum will not accept donations of artifacts or documents until further notice because the virus can exist on surfaces for many days.
  • Staff will revisit these plans Friday 3/13 and Monday 3/16 to assess as new information from public officials and partners dictate revising plans.
  • We will remain open as usual unless new information requires change.
  • We will schedule a deep clean of all public surfaces.
  • We are planning for different scenarios and will be monitoring the situation closely.
  • The number of in-person meetings will be limited.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support.

David Young, Executive Director, Delaware Historical Society

Read House To Stage Modern Photography Exhibit in Historic Mansion

New Castle, DE – The Read House & Gardens is looking to show historic houses through new sets of eyes. A National Historic Landmark campus of the Delaware Historical Society, the federal-style mansion has a long history in front of the camera. But in an exhibition planned for Spring/Summer 2020, DHS will feature photographs from area artists that bring new life to spaces that are too often presented as frozen slices of history.

The Read House is currently selecting photographers, models, and stylists from throughout the Midatlantic region to stage creative shoots in and around the historic mansion. Artists included in the project will be provided with a rare level of access and curatorial support to bring their creative visions to life. Anyone interested should inquire by emailing RHinfo@dehistory.org by Wednesday, January 22, 2020 with a link to their portfolio or Instagram. Preference may be given to models and stylists who are already paired with a photographer.

The mansion has been a frequent subject in photo shoots. Throughout the twentieth century, the house appeared in dozens of taste making magazines like Town & CountryHouse Beautiful, and Mademoiselle and even served as a backdrop for fashion and wallpaper catalogues. The 14,000-square-foot mansion was built between 1797 and 1804 for the family of George Read II, whose father was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution and an early governor of Delaware. Read’s obsessive attention to design and craftsmanship makes it one of the most significant examples of Federal-style architecture in America. Photographs from the 1880s show the house filled with decorative objects from East Asia, presumably brought back by its second owner, an import/export merchant named William Couper.

House museums often feel like time capsules, but in fact modern curators have staged them to look that way. Even with cutting-edge research, these stagings are products of the people and times that created them. To demystify that vibe, the Read House has been turning to photographs from its years as a private residence, which it will put on view alongside brand-new images from the current initiative. The house’s most photographed years were between 1920 and 1975, under the ownership of Philip and Lydia Laird, when antiques and early American architecture were trending in contemporary design. The Colonial Revival was as much about imagining the past as it was about preserving elements from it.

In 2020, antiques and historic interiors are on the rise once again. Some of the same magazines still hold sway over popular taste, but new digital channels like Instagram have transformed the landscape of visual culture. People sift through hundreds of images every day on their phones, and the word “curate” has entered the common lexicon as something we do with our homes, feeds, and social lives. Fashion writers have called this the “big flat now”—a world where we reach for styles and objects from myriad times in the past, assembling them into an eclectic world that has personal meaning for us. Much like the Laird years, the Read House of today continues to offer raw historical materials to inspire people’s imaginations. It speaks to themes ranging from comfort to enslavement and from the grandeur of entertaining to the labor involved in crafting the house and maintaining it as a functional residence.

“We’re excited to connect with the photography community that has become so vibrant on Instagram, VSCO, and other contemporary channels,” said Brenton Grom, director of the Read House. “We want to offer up this spectacular house as a fresh source of inspiration, and we’re looking forward to finding out how artists capture these rooms through their own eyes.”

Delaware Historical Society and the Mitchell Center Statement on Racial Justice

June 2, 2020 – The Delaware Historical Society and The Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage stand in solidarity with the African American community and everyone who seeks truth and jus-
tice. The state’s history demonstrates in each county and every century that systemic racism is so deeply rooted it cannot be avoided and must be addressed. We have not done enough to confront these issues, but we are prepared to do the hard work required to honestly address America’s history of racial injustice—to face history and ourselves.

We recognize that our community must see by our actions–and not just our words–that we are ded-
icated to addressing racism, injustice, inequity and the history of what has caused them. To date, Del-
aware Historical Society staff has participated in training on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We have rewritten and published our mission and vision statements, and are in the process of writing our core
values to reflect our commitment to serve our community.

Visit our website, dehistory.org, and follow us on social media as we share resources for educators and
anyone seeking to learn more about social justice and racism, hold space for dialogue, and reflect on
our collections and the history we preserve and share.

@dehistory | @readhouseandgardens | @MitchellCenterAfricanAmericanHeritageDHS
@delawarehistoricalsociety | @readhouseandgardens | @delawarehistoryvault
@thisisdehistory | @MCAAH_DHS