The Future of the Past: Organizing and Advocating for History in the First State

Leaders from historical organizations, agencies and museums from all over Delaware met on July 9th at the Delaware Agricultural Museum to discuss challenges and opportunities of mutual interest. And I’m pleased to report that there is no shortage of good ideas or enthusiasm in Delaware’s historical community – just a shortage of money, perhaps!

Ted George from the Ft. Miles Historical Society suggested it would be valuable to set up a collaboration between historical organizations to create a single source for information dissemination about upcoming events and programs – a sort of “clearing house” for Delaware history enthusiasts.

Fran Richmann, from the Lewes Historical Society, suggested that we take collaboration even further with by developing a statewide program to train docents or perhaps to share exhibitions.


Kay Sue Hardesty from the Bridgeville Historical Society, proposed the creation of a web site where we can share new ideas or “best practices.”


Kay Sue also suggested another collaboration with politicians focusing on technical assistance. As an example she noted the lack of laws regarding accession and de-accession of collections and long term loans.

Gary Wray suggested that it’s not enough to just let people know what’s going on at our historic sites, we need to encourage college teachers to send their students out to experience history themselves.

Mike DiPaolo, Director of the Lewes Historical Society, observed that the history community needs to find ways to attract support from the State, like arts organizations do.  

To that end, Marilyn Whittington, Executive Director of the Delaware Humanities Forum, suggested that we choose a day and all meet with our state legislators to discuss issues of importance to the history community modeled after NEH‘s advocacy day in Washington, DC.

Marilyn also reminded attendees that the Forum has major funding to support the digitizing of collections that hasn’t been allocated. They may even waive the requirement for matching funds in order to facilitate the investment in worthy projects.

Terry Wright, from the Delaware Heritage Commission suggested that all historical organizations should consider working with the Commission to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

In that same vein, Rebecca Wilson reminded everyone that 2013 marked the 375th Anniversary of the Kalmar Nyckel’s arrival at Swedes Landing (March 29, 1638).  She believes there will be a national celebration of the anniversary, and will keep everyone up to date as she learns more about the commemorative events.


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