Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team, the Collections Program preserves, and holds in public trust, a record of Delaware’s heritage by acquiring objects made in the First State or used by Delawareans throughout history.

Photo of items from the collections of the State of Delaware
Items from the collections of the State of Delaware

The primary function of the program is stewardship of the State of Delaware’s collection of archaeological artifacts, museum objects, works of art, library and archival materials, and oral histories which are utilized in developing exhibits and educational programs that illuminate the state’s historical and cultural legacies for the benefit of present and future generations.

painting of troops leaving dover green
“Colonel Hazlet’s Troops Leaving Dover Green” by Stanley Arthurs. Oil on canvas, 83 x 228 in., 1916. The mural is on display in the Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Del. From the collections of the State of Delaware

Archaeological collections

The State’s archaeological collections include more than 4 million artifacts that document Native-American cultures prior to European contact as well as post-contact societies.

Artifacts in the collections from Native-American archaeological sites in Delaware include cultural materials dating from the Late Ice Age (10,000 B.C.) to European contact. Examples of artifacts recovered as a product of nearly a century of archaeological investigations include projectile points, ceramics, and stone and bone tools.

photo of native American artifacts
Native-American artifacts from the archaeological collections of the State of Delaware

Post-contact artifacts in the archaeological collections document Delaware’s cultures and societies from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Artifacts include textiles, metals, ceramics, glass, buttons, building material, leather and ecological resources.

Scissors recovered from the Avery’s Rest archaeological site

Historical objects collections

The State’s historical objects collections include nearly 90,000 items dating from the Colonial period to the present. The collections contain furniture; clothing and accessories; long arms and edged weapons; ceramic, glass and silver objects; textiles; works of art; printed materials and ephemera; photography; and architectural features. the State Portrait Collection and the phonograph and recorded-sound collection associated with the Johnson Victrola Museum are special acquisitions.

Photo of Victor talking machine
Victor Talking Machine
photo of a forage cap
6th Regiment Delaware Volunteer Infantry forage cap, circa 1863

Items from the collections are featured prominently in division-sponsored exhibits at the State’s museums and historic sites. Due to the large number and fragility of some of the items, as well as the need for many of them to be kept in environmentally controlled conditions, it is impossible for all the materials to be formally shown at one time. Locations where items from the collections are currently on display include:

  1. The five museums of the State of Delaware: John Dickinson Plantation, Johnson Victrola Museum, New Castle Court House Museum, The Old State House and Zwaanendael Museum
  2. The Carvel State Office Building
  3. Legislative Hall
  4. Delaware Public Archives
  5. Woodburn, the Governor’s Residence
  6. Buena Vista Conference Center
  7. Partner organizations throughout the state of Delaware

Contact the C.A.R.E. Team for access and research related to the state’s collections at 302- 608-5330 or edward.mcwilliams@delaware.gov.

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