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The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs is bidding farewell to Curator of Collections Ann Baker Horsey who will retire from the agency on April 30, 2020 after 44 years of service.
A native of Ottumwa, Iowa, Horsey earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in related arts/interior design from the University of Iowa. While still living in the Hawkeye State, she was involved in the historically accurate interior redesign of the Old Capitol Building in Iowa City.
In 1975, Horsey attended the Seminar for Historical Administrators in Williamsburg, Va. where she met then Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Director Larry Henry who encouraged her to apply for the position of museum curator within the division. She eventually was selected for the job, moved to Dover, Del. and began work with the agency on Jan. 1, 1976.
At that time, the division was fully engaged in the restoration of The Old State House to its original 18th-century appearance as part of the nation’s upcoming bicentennial celebrations. Diving into the project, Horsey was asked to direct the interior re-design of the building by procuring period-appropriate furnishings, contracting for the restoration of artwork, and selecting period-specific ornamentation and paint colors. In subsequent years, she was also involved in interior-design planning for the restoration of several other historic buildings in Delaware including the Old Sussex County Court House, John Dickinson Plantation, Woodburn, Hall House and Buena Vista.
As the division’s curator of collections, Horsey’s varied responsibilities also included cultivating relationships with donors and managing the purchase and donation of items to the State’s collections; prioritizing and managing the preservation and conservation of collections items; managing the State Portrait Collection; serving as co-coordinator of the Delaware Quilt Documentation Project; and curating several exhibits including “Stitches of Art and Comfort: Delaware Quilts 1740–2002,” “Rolled, Cast, Beaten and Cut: Delaware Silver,” “Wine and Spirits in Delaware: Producing, Preserving, and Presenting,” “Rose Color to Gold to Glowing Red: Orville and Ethel Peets in Paris 1913-1914,” and “Delaware Railroads: Elegant Travel and Timely Transport.”
Referring to her role in both conserving and exhibiting collections items, Horsey noted, “It’s important that we save historical objects, but it’s equally important to share those items with the public. I love to tell the stories behind the objects—of the families that owned them and how they passed down through the generations. It brings history to life.”
Horsey takes particular satisfaction in the work that she did in the long-term cultivation and nurturing of donor relationships with individuals who eventually gave their collections to the State of Delaware. As an example, she noted the relationship that she developed with Dr. Lynwood Heiges, an upstate New York physician who had lovingly amassed a large and important collection of objects related to the Victor Talking Machine Company and the early days of the sound-recording industry.
Beginning in the 1970s, Horsey cultivated a donor relationship with Heiges, helping him learn about the Johnson Victrola Museum and its importance in preserving the history of the Victor company. The relationship bore fruit more than 20 years later when Heiges donated his collection to the State of Delaware in 1998. Commenting on the cultivation of donor relationships, Horsey noted, “You have to work with people, and then they will work with you.”
Reflecting on Horsey’s many contributions to the division, Edward McWilliams, manager of the agency’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) team, wrote, “It was a pleasure working with Ann. Her work truly has made a lasting impact in presenting and Saving Delaware History, as well as the many legacy collections acquired during her years of service. We congratulate Ann on her retirement and wish her the very best in her future endeavors.”
Upon retirement, Horsey plans to continue spending time with her two grown children, traveling, gardening, singing in two choirs and volunteering for a variety of community organizations.