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Historic-site interpreter Jackie Collins, a long-time veteran of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ downtown Dover museums, will retire on May 2, 2020 after 25 years of service.
Born and raised is Salisbury, Md., Collins moved to Dover in 1990. In March 1995, she joined the staff of the division’s Museum Square sites—the Johnson Victrola Museum, Delaware Archaeology Museum and Museum of Small Town Life (the latter two permanently closed in 2009). In subsequent years, she added The Old State House to the list of downtown Dover museums where she served.
Collins enjoyed conducting tours and special programming that helped bring the people and events of the past to life. She was particularly fond of the reactions that she elicited from children who connected immediately with her joyful and energetic presentations. On several occasions, she was asked by educators if she was a retired teacher because she was so good at working with young people.
In August 2009, the Johnson Victrola Museum began operating on a reduced schedule due to reductions in the state budget resulting from the nation-wide economic recession that began in late 2008. In order to extend operating hours, Collins was asked in March 2011 to help develop a recruitment campaign to attract and train volunteers who would assist existing interpretive staff in operating the museum. In response, she worked tirelessly as a liaison in recruiting, interviewing, training and scheduling almost 20 volunteers to serve as museum docents. Five of those volunteers were honored by Gov. Jack Markell with a 2015 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award.
Accredited as a Certified Interpretive Guide by the National Association for Interpretation, Collins enjoyed writing special programs for the museums. Two of her favorite creations were “The Life and Career of ‘Fats’ Waller” in which descendants of the great jazz pianist and songwriter came to Dover to see the program; and “The Star Spangled Banner” which she created in 2014 for the bicentennial of the writing of the Francis Scott Key poem which became the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem.
She also enjoyed going out into the community to promote the museums at fairs and community events such as the 55 Expo and the Ladybug Festival; and at community venues including the Dover Public Library, the Schwartz Center and Westminster Village senior living.
In 2016, Collins was nominated for the division’s Lifetime Achievement Award by Nena Todd, site supervisor for the downtown Dover museums. She received the honor later that year. Commenting on Collins’ career, Todd noted, “Jackie was the glue that held us all together. She was the big sister we all went to for advice and she looked after all of us. Without a doubt she will be missed by all because she was indeed the highlight of the museums.”
“I always considered my colleagues as my work family” said Collins referring to her career at the museums. “I will miss all of this greatly. … The 25 years have melted away so fast because I really enjoyed what I was doing.”
Once she settles into retirement, Collins plans to enjoy spending more time with her husband Byron; engaging in volunteer opportunities in service to children and senior citizens; and “enjoying the experiences that life has to offer.”