About Our Collections
The Delaware Historical Society holds the nation’s largest privately held collection of material relating to Delaware history with approximately 3 million items dating from the beginnings of settlement in 1638 to the present in its library and museum collections.
Collections include archival material, printed materials, and objects. They are featured in ongoing exhibits, educational programs, publications, and social media.
Archival material at the Delaware Historical Society includes manuscripts, photographs, prints, and other visual material related to Delaware. The manuscript collection, consisting of personal and family papers and business and organizational records, contains over 2 million documents and reveals histories relating to politics and the legal system, military conflicts, business and industry, women, African Americans, and communities such as Arden, Delaware. The Society’s large photograph collection documents Delaware history from the advent of photography to the current day.
Our Library Collection of Printed Materials
The Delaware Historical Society Research Library holds an extensive collection of printed materials, including books, pamphlets, imprints, almanacs, maps, periodicals, microforms, and genealogical resources. While researchers can explore some of the collection in the online catalog, other materials should be viewed during an in-person visit.
Rare Books, Rare Pamphlets, Almanacs & Imprints
Our rare print collection represents a wide range of subjects and includes rare books, almanacs, and pamphlets, and more than 300 Delaware imprints by over 25 early printers.
Family History Materials
The family history collection is comprised of published family genealogies, deeds, land records, church and cemetery records, Delaware census records, surname files, and city and town directories. The collection has benefitted greatly from the assistance of the Delaware Genealogical Society, whose volunteers contributed to its development.
Newspapers & Yearbooks
The Research Library is home to an outstanding collection of Delaware newspapers and school yearbooks. Newspapers date from the late 1700s to the mid 1960s while the yearbooks cover the entire 20th century and come from schools throughout the state. Since these collections are not extensively indexed, newspaper and yearbook research is best conducted during an in-person library visit.
The Delaware Historical Society’s Artifact Collection
The Delaware Historical Society has steadily been adding to its artifact holdings since its founding in 1864, when William Bringhurst presented the first formal donation: a relic piece of wood said to be a piece of the boat in which General George Washington crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776. By the mid-1870s, the Society had also become the official repository for the state’s collection of Civil War battle flags. Since then, the Society has been steadily adding to its holdings, which now stand at over 16000 items related to Delaware’s history and material culture from the 1700s right up until the present day. Our collections are diverse and wide ranging and include, but are not limited to, textiles, ceramics, silver, furniture, works of art, weapons, housewares, toys, and business-related items. We continue to actively collect items related to Delaware history, but all potential donations must first be evaluated by the Society’s curatorial staff.
If you have items that you would like to consider donating to the artifact collection, please contact Jennifer Potts, Curator of Objects by email or phone (302) 295-2389.