The Old State House, one of the six museums of the state of Delaware.

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has recently implemented a plan to significantly increase the number of special programs at the state of Delaware's six museums (The New Castle Court House Museum, the John Dickinson Plantation, the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, The Old State House, the Johnson Victrola Museum and the Zwaanendael Museum). The plan calls for simple, low-cost initiatives designed to not only attract new visitors, but to also offer inducements for people to make return visits to the facilities.

According to Beverly Laing, the division's manager of historic sites, "What we are attempting to do is to invite the public into our sites. We want to give them many reasons to stop by, bring guests, attend a different event and experience history in a fun and interesting way."

Planned endeavors include repeating programs at multiple sites, themed tours, expanded children's programming including after-school activities and many others. Because these activities are designed to utilize existing resources and personnel, they will have a minimal impact on the museums' budgets.

Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the museums of the state of Delaware tell the story of Delaware's contributions to the history and culture of the United States. Through displays, exhibits and special programs, the museums explore how the state's distinctive physical environment, in combination with the people who came to live there, gave Delaware an identity that is different from any other place.

Go to the following for a complete listing of events at the museums of the state of Delaware for the period from March 1 to Aug. 31, 2012.


On Jan. 20, 2012, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs entered the blogosphere with the launch of the new Delaware Historical and Cultural Affairs Blog which is designed to keep the public regularly engaged with the many voices and activities within the agency. Managed and edited by Travis Kirspel, curator of digital assets, the blog is expected to feature new posts on a weekly basis.

Subscribers to the blog can choose to receive posts on all subject categories or they can select the categories for which they would like to receive information. Subject categories include archaeology, education, events, exhibits, historic sites, horticulture, museums, news and preservation. To date, the blog has featured posts on the State Historic Preservation Office, the division's participation in the American Association of Museums' Museum Assessment Program, Delaware's commemoration of Black History Month, the filming of a National Geographic Channel segment at the Johnson Victrola Museum, Delaware's historic-preservation planning process, an update on winter horticultural activities at division properties, Delaware patriot Allen McLane, volunteerism at division properties and conservation of HMB DeBraak.

The creation of the Delaware Historical and Cultural Affairs Blog is a milestone in the division's "Point and Click" initiative which aims to increase agency services delivered via the Internet. Upcoming projects call for the creation of a YouTube channel, and Flickr and Twitter accounts.

Go to the following to access the Delaware Historical and Cultural Affairs Blog.


Displays at the Johnson Victrola Museum, one of the six museums of the state of Delaware.

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has recently been selected to participate in the American Association of Museums' Museum Assessment Program which will assist the six museums of the state of Delaware in maintaining and improving their operations through a confidential, consultative process.

The primary objectives for participating in the program include increasing the state's knowledge about museum standards and best practices throughout the museum system; improving the division's ability to review, develop and revise policies and procedures in a world that demands constant adaptation; and preparing the division's museums for eventual accreditation with the American Association of Museums. These initiatives will enable the division to forge stronger bonds between the state and its rich heritage while further empowering local institutions through professional partnerships.

For additional information, go to the following blog post: HCA Selected to Participate in National Museum Assessment Program.


Hale-Byrnes House

According to annual reporting documents, visitation to the state-owned Hale-Byrnes House, located between Stanton and Christiana, Del., has increased by 267% between the years 2008 and 2011. Built in 1750 and purchased in 1773 by Daniel Byrnes, a Quaker preacher and miller, this historic home was used in 1777 as a meeting place for Gen. George Washington and his staff between the Battle of Cooch's Bridge in Delaware and the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania. Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the property is leased to the Delaware Society for the Preservation of Antiquities with day-to-day management provided by resident-curators Kim and Ralph Burdick.

Since the Burdicks moved into the house in June 2008, there has been a significant increase in public programming including monthly open houses, American Revolution Round Table of Northern Delaware lectures, historical re-enactments, Halloween and Christmas events and environmental programs revolving around the Christiana River which flows behind the house. In addition, Kim Burdick, a historian, has recently written a history of Daniel Byrnes entitled "I Remain Your Friend, Daniel Byrnes. A Quaker in the Revolutionary Era 1730-1797."


The Archaeological Society of Delaware is seeking informal presentations on archaeology and cultures of the Delaware Valley which will be presented at "The Early Colonial Delaware Valley—An Archaeological Symposium" that will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 12, 2012 at the New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware St., in New Castle, Del.

Now in its fifth year, the symposium is dedicated to building a regional-level dialog that can identify the uniqueness of the cultures that existed in the Delaware Valley during the early period of European colonization. Persons interested in making a presentation at the symposium should submit an abstract no later than April 23, 2012.

Admission to the symposium is free and open to the public. To submit an abstract or to make a reservation to attend the symposium, contact Craig Lukezic at craig.lukezic@state.de.us or call 302-736-7407.


Historic-site interpreters Vertie Lee (left) and Barbara Carrow portray two of the women who lived and worked at the John Dickinson Plantation.

During the month of March 2012, the museums of the state of Delaware will be presenting 16 events in commemoration of Women's History Month. All programs are free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

Designated by joint resolutions of the United States House of Representatives and Senate and proclaimed by six American presidents, National Women's History Month is an opportunity to honor and celebrate women's lives and historic achievements. Each year National Women's History Month employs a unifying theme and recognizes national honorees whose work and lives testify to that theme. For 2012, the theme is "Women's Education—Women's Empowerment."

The 2012 Women's History Month programs are as follows:


March 1, 8, 15 and 22
"A Woman's World."
Explore the daily responsibilities of 18th-century women and the domestic skills that they were expected to possess. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover, Del. Program 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.



Saturday, March 3
"Victor's Queens."
Program focusing on the talented female vocalists of the Victor Talking Machine Company, accompanied by early recordings of those artists played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover, Del. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.


Saturday, March 3
"Letters to My Mother."
Utilizing the exhibit, "The Civil War: Five Delaware Soldiers' Stories," as a backdrop, guided tours will explore women's roles during America's bloodiest conflict through letters written by soldiers to their families in Delaware. First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, 121 Duke of York St., Dover, Del. Guided tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 3 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.



Saturday, March 3
"War of the Roses."
Living-history theater presentation featuring a debate from the days of the women's suffrage movement. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover, Del. Program at 1 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.



Sunday, March 4
"Victorian Secrets: Undressing the Well-Dressed Victorian Man and Woman."
Program by period-clothing designer Thomas Tear on Victorian fashion and social customs. Models will display and disrobe their period clothing. New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware St., New Castle, Del. Program at 2 p.m. Museum open 1:30-4:30 p.m. Free admission but, due to space restrictions, reservations are required by calling 302-323-4453.



March 7, 14, 21 and 28
"Women's Work Wednesdays."
After-school presentation and hands-on activity highlighting historical women in the First State from pre-Colonial times to the suffrage movement. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover, Del. Program 3-4 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.



Saturday, March 10
"Divas."
Program spotlighting the female pioneers of recorded sound accompanied by recordings of those artists played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Featured artist on March 10: Rosa Ponselle. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover, Del. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.



Saturday, March 17
Program on the Zwaanendael Women's Club.
Club historian B.J. Young will give a presentation on this Lewes-based group of community-minded women. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes, Del. Program at 2 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 302-645-1148.



Thursday, March 22
"A Stitch in Time: Hand-Stitching in the Colonial Tradition."
Hands-on workshop in which participants learn basic stitching techniques and then take home their sampler. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes, Del. Program 2-3:30 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 302-645-1148.



Saturday, March 24
"Divas."
Program spotlighting the female pioneers of recorded sound accompanied by recordings of those artists played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Featured artist on March 10: Nellie Melba. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover, Del. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.


Illustration depicting the 1804 fire at the John Dickinson mansion.

On March 5, 1804, Nathan Burrows, a farmer living near John Dickinson's plantation outside Dover, Del. wrote, "Tis with regret I acquaint you that your house was burnt down on Saturday last." With these words, Dickinson, one of the founding fathers of the United States and "Penman of the Revolution," discovered that his home had been accidentally destroyed by fire on Saturday, March 3, 1804. Exactly 208 years later, on Saturday, March 3, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the John Dickinson Plantation, located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road in Dover, Del., will commemorate the anniversary of the blaze with a program that explores both the details of the fire and Dickinson's decision to rebuild his beloved childhood home and country estate. Admission to the program is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-739-3277.


Kings Homemade Ice Cream, 302 Union St., Milton, Del.

Tom King, second-generation owner of King's Homemade Ice Cream Shops in Milton and Lewes, Del., will be the speaker at the sixth installment of "Savory Sussex," a seven-part, monthly series of programs on the unique and delectable local flavors of Sussex County, Del. The program will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at the Zwaanendael Museum located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del. Admission is free and open to the public but, due to seating limitations, reservations must be made by calling 302-645-1148 no later than Monday, March 5, 2012.

In 1972, Earl King opened the first King's Homemade Ice Cream shop in Milton, Del. in an 1830 building that had once housed a general store. Forty years later, the original King's and its second location, opened in Lewes in 1981 by son Tom and his wife Chris, continue to serve award-winning ice cream, frozen yogurt and water ices to thousands of satisfied customers from around the world. Over the years, the shops have won many of Delaware Today Magazine's Best of Delaware awards, most recently being named "Best Ice Cream, Downstate" in 2011.

In 2004, Tom and Chris' daughter Chelsea and her husband Rudy joined the family business. Rudy has since assumed the manufacturing duties as well as management of the shops. In coming years, the couple will take over ownership of King's Homemade Ice Cream Shops becoming the third generation of the King family to operate the business.


Victor Talking Machine Company advertisement for John McCormack.

On Saturday, March 17, 2012, between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., the Johnson Victrola Museum, located at 375 S. New St. in Dover, Del. will celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a program exploring the life of noted Irish tenor John McCormack accompanied by original recordings of the artist played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Admission for the program is free and open to the public. For additional information, call the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries at 302-744-5055.

Born in 1884 in Athlone, Ireland, John McCormack began singing at an early age and with little formal training, won the gold medal as a tenor at the Irish National Music Festival, the Feis Ceoil, in 1903. After vocal studies in Italy, he moved to London in 1906 where he began an operatic career which went on to include performances with the Royal Opera at Covent Garden and later at the Metropolitan Opera in New York among many others. By 1912, he had also become increasingly involved as a recitalist, giving performances in hundreds of venues large and small. In 1919 he became a United States citizen and continued singing, with some breaks, until his retirement in 1943. McCormack died in Ireland in 1945.

John McCormack's recording career, which lasted from 1904 to 1942, included dozens of recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the 1910s and 1920s. His recordings of popular Irish songs including "The Wearing of the Green," "The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls," "The Minstrel Boy," "Come Back to Erin," "The Dear Little Shamrock," "My Wild Irish Rose" and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" made him a beloved figure in his native Ireland, in America and across the globe.


A scene from "The Death of Col. E.P. Jones."

On Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 1 p.m., the New Castle Court House Museum, located at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del., will present a performance of "The Death of Col. E.P. Jones," a play written by New Castle resident Thomas J. Reed that depicts the court martial of a young Union recruit charged with shooting a Confederate prisoner who was incarcerated at Fort Delaware, a coastal-defense fortress on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River that housed thousands of Confederate prisoners of war during the American Civil War.

Performers in the play include a large contingent of local history-buffs including the playwright himself, plus George K. McDowell, Bob Hayden, Bob Clifton, James Haley, Esq., Brendan McKie, Dave Price, Damian Del Pino, George Ferguson, Sean Protas, Jack Witzman, Jim Pratzner, John Martin and Sean Wagner.

Admission to "The Death of Col. E.P. Jones" is free and open to the public, but, due to space restrictions, reservations are strongly suggested by calling 302-323-4453. The museum will also be open for general visitation between 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Thomas J. Reed is a 1969 graduate of Notre Dame Law School. He received his bachelor's degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1962. During his four years of active duty, he won an air medal in the Dominican Republic Crisis of 1965. After a number of years in private practice and as a university professor, Reed came to the Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Del. where he served for several years as associate dean. Retired as a full-time faculty member since 2003, he now teaches part-time at the school.

A life-long student of military history, Reed has written or edited four books on the American Civil War with primary interests in Union and Confederate cavalry, military law and suppression of civil liberties. He and his wife Dr. Emily Reed live in an 1870 house in historic New Castle, Del.


John A. Nagy

On Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 7 p.m., the New Castle Court House Museum, located at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del., will host "Espionage in the American Revolution," a lecture by John A. Nagy, author of "Invisible Ink: Spycraft of the American Revolution." The program is presented in partnership with the New Castle Historical Society. Admission is free and open to the public, but, due to space restrictions, reservations are strongly suggested by calling 302-323-4453.

John A. Nagy was born in Perth Amboy, N.J. and resides in Mount Laurel, N.J. He is an expert in antique documents, a consultant on espionage for the William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan and a scholar in residence at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa. Nagy is president of the American Revolution Round Table of Philadelphia and has appeared on the History Channel, C-Span, local educational-television and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. He received his bachelor's degree from Saint Francis University and his master's degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. His book "Rebellion in the Ranks: Mutinies of the American Revolution" won the American Revolution Round Table of Philadelphia's Thomas Fleming Book Award for the best book on the American Revolution era published in 2007. His most recent book, "Spies in the Continental Capital: Espionage Across Pennsylvania During the American Revolution," was released in June 2011. All of Nagy's books will be available for sale and autographing as part of the March 28th program.