What it’s like to work in Delaware history
Do you love Delaware history? If you’ve ever considered working in the field, a job, internship or volunteering opportunity with the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs may be the perfect fit for you!
From historic site interpreters to accounting experts to maintenance, social media and historic collections managers, the division is tasked with preserving Delaware’s heritage and showcasing the historic legacy of the First State in an inclusive way through active historic preservation efforts, educational programs, museum exhibits and more. Whether that is through internships, volunteering, part-time or full-time work, there is always a chance to contribute to preserving and expanding Delaware’s historic legacy.
It takes a well-rounded team to help people connect to the past in a way that will be meaningful for future generations, and so the division is always growing and looking to bring fresh perspectives in a variety of ways to its mission.
That forward-thinking approach to historic preservation is key for Kira Lyle, who joined the division in June 2023 as its new collections manager. In this role, she manages both the physical and intellectual control of the artifacts housed in the division’s collections. This encompasses both knowledge of where an object is physically located and how it is stored, but also managing all of the “data” associated with an artifact: how it came to be in the collection, whose story it represents and how the object can be presented to the public to tell meaningful stories about the past and the present.
“Fundamentally, learning about history is a great way of understanding our now,” she said. “Every single person who is alive and who has lived contributed to our history and our understanding of history.”
While the division does have an expansive collection of historic artifacts, there’s still plenty of room to grow and change, in order to tell more diverse stories from different perspectives that have not been adequately recognized before.
“The way you tell history, it’s infinite,” Lyle said, noting that the stories that help inform our histories largely depend on whose items have been collected, and who has collected those items. In America, history has been told from a predominantly wealthy and white perspective. Historic agencies like the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs have the opportunity — and mission — to tell overlooked stories that will help shape a better understanding of our past.
“If we understand that,” she said, “We can tell different stories. We’re not stuck telling our past in the way it’s always been told.”
For Tom Smith, the division’s accountant, working for the division has offered an opportunity to learn new things despite decades of experience in his field. Not only has he learned new software, but he’s also had the opportunity to explore more of Delaware’s history and work alongside enthusiastic colleagues that he described as “walking books of knowledge.”
“There’s still a lot of growth in front of me,” said Smith, who joined the division in January 2023. He said the people he works with have been great, and that he’s excited to dig into new and more advanced aspects of his job.
Working for a state agency like the division also offers perks like paid time off and other benefits that Smith said can be an added plus, especially for those coming from a more corporate world. Smith is one of many people from administration to maintenance and social media management that help the division run smoothly behind the scenes. Working for a state agency like the division also offers perks like paid time off and other benefits that Smith said can be an added plus, especially for those coming from a more corporate world. Smith is one of many people from administration to maintenance and social media management who help the division run smoothly behind the scenes.
The division is currently searching for a new curator of historic collections, a position that is responsible for the intellectual and physical control over the division’s historic collections, including overseeing the safety, preservation, maintenance and documentation of objects held in storage, on exhibit and on loan. Applications will be accepted through Friday, Nov. 3.
Available job opportunities with the division, which is part of the Delaware Department of State, are listed online at history.delaware.gov/about-agency/employment and are posted on the Delaware State Jobs board.
For more information on volunteering with the division, go to history.delaware.gov/volunteers.