In recent months, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has welcomed a number of new members to its staff. Working within the agency’s seven teams, these newest members of the division family are playing their part in preserving Delaware’s unique history and sharing it with the state’s residents and visitors. The hiring of new staff has proceeded in tandem with the ongoing re-opening of the state in response to improving COVID-19 conditions that culminated with Gov. John Carney’s lifting of the COVID-19 state of emergency on July 13, 2021. Complementing this order, the division’s museums resumed full operating hours on July 6, 2021.
Likewise, the division’s response to the mass movement protesting racial discrimination that erupted across the nation in May 2020 resulted in the issuance of a strongly worded race and equity statement; creation of programs and online resources that reflect a more inclusive history; creation of a Race and Equity Committee; and the hiring of four new staff members who are working on issues related to diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion.
Following are profiles of employees, often in their own words, who have recently joined, or will soon join, the division staff:
The division’s Business Administration Team provides a fiscal and administrative support-network that is the foundation for all of the agency’s activities.
Business Administration Team Manager Mandie Skowronski started her career with the State of Delaware in 2017 as an accounting specialist, and has moved through the ranks as an accountant, senior accountant and administrative accountant. She comes to the division from the Department of Human Resources and also has experience working at the Department of Transportation. In addition to her work, Mandie noted that she “enjoys raising her five-year-old daughter, outdoor adventures such as kayaking and fishing, supporting local businesses through good food and events, traveling from Disney World to camping in Pigeon Forge and embracing life one day at a time!”
Working with the Site Management; Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE); and Administration teams, these staff members are focusing on including more diverse communities and inclusive topics in Delaware history, increasing diversity in division staffing and engaging with partners and community groups to advance the goals stated in the division’s race and equity statement.
Amy Golden Shepherd serves as a consultant to the division and has worked deliberately in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion for 17 years and, by default, all of her life. As a mixed-race woman of color growing up in spaces that were predominated by race, she learned the ways in which race and culture affect lifestyle, experience and mindset. She has taught in the independent school arena for 17 years serving as librarian and director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, meeting people where they are to create a truly inclusive environment where community members can show up as their authentic selves and thrive. Amy has a profound appreciation of the critical importance of uncovering the full history of our nation and sharing that truth with all. She believes that now is the time for our ancestors, all of our ancestors, to have their stories told and the difficult and complex truth revealed.
Amy credits her formal DEI education to the Diversity and Inclusion certificate program at Cornell University. Equally as impactful, she credits her informal education to the experiences she has had in the community learning from grassroots organizers and social justice activists. Amy is a graduate of Temple University. She lives with her family in Middletown, Del.
Jeanette Bendolph is a researcher for inclusive history working with the Site Management Team. She noted:
I am from Long Beach, Calif. but have resided in Delaware since my early childhood. I am an alumna of the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in history with minors in museum studies and Africana studies. I am a current student of Temple University’s Public History master’s program and have specific interest in the subjects of Black American studies and women’s studies. I wish to concentrate on inclusive history research because it is my goal to continue to unearth American history that has previously been overshadowed and neglected. By pursuing this work, I hope to shed light on minority history to provide more inclusive and diverse narratives in America’s contemporary historical spheres.
Researcher for Inclusive History Carolanne Deal is currently working with the division’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team. Carolanne commented:
I was born and raised in Hockessin, Del. I earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Delaware where I continued my studies and received a master’s degree in art history with a concentration in museum studies in 2019. I’m passionate about inclusive history because I believe the research we do has the ability to inspire, educate and create change. I look forward to highlighting the stories often relegated to the margins of history and making those stories accessible to the public. In my free time, I like to walk my three dogs, attend live music shows and listen to podcasts about true crime or queer history.
Sakinaa Rock is a researcher for inclusive history working with several of the division’s teams. Sakinaa noted:
I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and raised in Newport News, Va. In 2018, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Africana studies with a concentration in African American studies from William & Mary. In the fall, I will be attending graduate school at Bryn Mawr College pursuing a master’s degree in social service at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. I am interested in inclusive history because I am committed to examining structures of power and privilege, highlighting marginalized histories, and using history to address social issues and enact social change. In my free time, I enjoy relaxing in nature, cooking Thai food and binge-watching Korean dramas!
The division’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team is responsible for the care and control of the State’s collections of museum objects, archaeological artifacts, works of art and archival materials; and ensuring that the public has the widest possible exposure to those materials.
Meg Hutchins will join the division staff on Aug. 2, 2021 as manager of the CARE Team. Meg is currently the Museum Studies program coordinator for the University of Delaware. Since 2018, they have also served as the Pride Caucus Chair at the University of Delaware, which acts as an advocate for LGBTQ faculty, staff and students on campus. They have previously held museum positions at the 1890 House Museum and the Upper Bay Museum. Meg serves on the board of directors for the Delaware Museum Association and the Greenbank Mill & Phillips Farm.
According to Meg, she has been engaged in historical cultural institutions “since the age of eight, doing historic interpretation, educational programming, collections management, historic preservation, small museum administration and museum studies education.” To achieve a deeper understanding of cultural institutions they gained a master’s degree in historic preservation and a graduate certificate in museum studies, both from the University of Delaware.
Meg has a passion for helping institutions fulfill their potential through the organization of collections, the introduction of engaged and diverse stories, and the building of strong institutional governance. They are an active member of the professional museum community by serving on the boards of Greenbank Mills & Phillips Farm and the Delaware Museum Association. Meg currently lives in Newark, Del. with their husband Chris and rescue pup Rock. They are excited to join the team and help the division continue to move forward.
Members of the State Historic Preservation Office’s team of architectural historians, archaeologists, historians and information specialists are dedicated to locating, studying and recording Delaware’s historic buildings, structures, objects, districts, landscapes and archaeological sites.
Cultural Preservation Specialist — Archaeologist Sarah Carr commented:
I graduated from Fordham University with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 2017. I am currently preparing to defend my thesis for completion of my master’s degree in historical archaeology with the University of Massachusetts Boston. Before coming to work in Delaware, I worked with the National Park Service in the regional archaeology office. I’ve focused my archaeological career on collaborating with Indigenous communities and working with the public to get people excited about history. In my free time, I enjoy gardening, hiking and going to concerts.”
Cultural Preservation Specialist — Architectural Historian Emily Whaley noted:
I am from Laurel, Del. and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Mary Washington in 2019. I am passionate about vernacular architecture, especially in the Mid-Atlantic region. As a member of the Preservation Team, I currently assist with the Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program and the National Register of Historic Places. In my free time, I enjoy reading, gardening and visiting museums.
Historic-site interpreters are the division’s front-line connection with the public, adding a human face to Delaware history. Through tours and special programming, they provide in-depth information about Delaware’s historic places and help bring the people and events of the past to life.
Tyler Hutchison serves at the division’s downtown Dover museums. He remarked:
I was born and raised in Dover, Del. and went to college at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. where I got my bachelor’s degree in history. Growing up in Dover, I was always interested in the history of the area, and Delaware as a whole, especially through the lens of Colonial history. Through college, my studies turned more towards 20th-century history. When I’m not brushing up on my history, I am usually competing in local races, building model kits and enjoying as much time as possible outdoors.
Lauren Moser serves at the John Dickinson Plantation outside Dover. She was born and raised in Hockessin, Del., and spent her high school years volunteering for Hagley Museum and the Delaware Nature Society, eventually becoming an education intern, resident and field instructor for Ashland Nature Center. She is passionate about the connections between people, stories and landscapes. In 2016, Lauren earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in environmental humanities from the University of Delaware where she also worked as a program coordinator for the New Student Orientation Office. She has extensive experience leading teen backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail and has completed farm apprenticeships in Vermont, Pennsylvania and Florida. This past year she got married and purchased a log home with her husband in Clayton, Del.
Alexander Rumm serves at the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes. He noted:
I am looking forward to learning more about lower Delaware and the history of the people here. I have worked at the Hagley Museum as an interpreter where I focused on school groups. I am also an interpreter at First State Heritage Park where I conduct research to update tours as well as look for new information to share. I worked to build a colonial-style garden for use in demonstrations and programs. My focus is food history and I hope to learn enough to open my own museum someday.
Courtney Lynahan first started with the division as a historic-site interpreter and moved to the position of planner, working with Lynn Riley, and assisting in the management of capital projects on the agency’s campus which includes 40 properties across the state. Recently named to the new position of curator of historic structures, Courtney will ensure that all of the division’s capital projects meet ongoing historic preservation standards. She will report to the division’s Chief of Maintenance James Scott, and work in tandem with Construction Project Manager Paul Friday. Commenting on her new role, she noted:
I am looking forward to creating a cohesive overview of all our sites and structures both for the historic record and the architectural record. I am also looking forward to working with sites in research and creating a narrative history of our buildings and sites with regards to changes and maintenance over time.
I have a master’s degree from the University of Delaware in urban affairs and public policy, historic preservation, and was a Center for Historic Architecture and Design grad assistant where I spent a lot of my time assisting with historic district inventories and photography documentation. I interned with John Milner Architects and became proficient in structural assessments and historic research relating to the social history of buildings. Working at Delaware State Parks, I created inventories and tour programming relating to Bellevue State Park, Port Penn, the Dover Green and the Dover Victorian District. As a planner with the division, I have been able to be part of the preservation and maintenance of our buildings.
With more than 120 years of combined experience in various trades, this group of skilled professionals can handle any challenge that comes their way in order to maintain, repair and preserve the nearly 90 structures administered by the division.
Richard Johnson is a physical-plant maintenance trades mechanic working at the Buena Vista conference center in New Castle. Richard joined the division after a 35-year career as a senior customer service engineer at the Xerox Corporation where he was the recipient of the Xerox President’s Club Award which is presented to an outstanding technician.
Volunteer Services Coordinator Jennifer Bowman is working to recruit, and fully utilize the talents of, a dedicated cadre of volunteers who can help the agency preserve Delaware’s historical legacy. She commented:
I grew up on a sheep farm in north Dover and now live in Felton, Del. I hold a master’s degree in environmental science and education from Antioch University New England, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and animal behavior from Long Island University, Southampton College. Over the past 18 years, I have worked in environmental, historical and cultural education; and have conducted outreach for numerous organizations including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Cornell University. In addition, I have served as a program developer and outreach coordinator for the State of Delaware, and as a historic site interpreter at the division’s Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes. When not working, I can either be found pursuing numerous creative hobbies such as sewing, beading and painting, or hiking local trails and traveling.