Vice President Joe Biden speaking at the ceremony celebrating the creation of the First State National Monument. Listening are (from left) Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, New Castle Mayor Donald Reese and Senator Tom Carper.


Street scene in front of the New Castle Court House (left). The historic structure is a component of the First State National Monument.

On Monday, March 25, 2013, President Obama signed proclamations establishing five new national monuments including the First State National Monument, the 400th unit of the national park system and the first to be located in the state of Delaware. The monument will explore Delaware's rich history including its Native American roots; early settlement by Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English colonists; its participation in America's struggle for independence; its distinction as the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution; and its roles in religious freedom, the Underground Railroad, school desegregation and pioneering efforts in conservation and open space.

The First State National Monument is comprised of three historic areas including the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex (including the court house, Green and Sheriff's House); and the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley. The monument will be managed by the National Park Service with headquarters in the Sheriff's House. Formerly owned by the state of Delaware and administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the Sheriff's House was recently transferred to the federal government as part of the process of creating the national monument. The New Castle Court House and New Castle Green will continue to be owned by the state and administered by the division.

The naming of the monument was celebrated on Tuesday, March 26 with a ceremony in front of the Sheriff's House attended by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Senator Tom Carper, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, New Castle Mayor Donald Reese and many others.

The establishment of the First State National Monument is a significant milestone, but it is not the end of the journey of creating a national park in Delaware. While national monuments can be declared by the president, national parks require congressional authorization. Towards this end, the state's congressional delegation, spearheaded by Sen. Carper, will continue to introduce legislation that would authorize a national park in Delaware. On Feb. 19, 2013, they introduced the First State National Historical Park Act of 2013 which, if adopted, would include the properties that are part of the new national monument as well as several other historic sites in the state including Old Swedes Church National Historic Landmark in Wilmington, the Ryves-Holt House in Lewes and two additional sites administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs—Fort Christina National Historic Landmark in Wilmington and the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover.

parks sculptures

Entrance to the exhibit, "Dealing in Symbols: Profundity and the Human Figure."

A new exhibit of works by the noted Wilmington, Del. sculptor Charles Parks (1922–2012) is now on display at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries in Dover, Del. Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the exhibit, entitled "Dealing in Symbols: Profundity and the Human Figure," features 13 of the more than 300 works that the artist donated to the state of Delaware in 2011. Except for one abstract work, all of the sculptures in the exhibit reveal Parks' abiding interest in the realistic depiction of the human form, often in juxtaposition with animal forms.

Reflecting a deeply felt humanism, Parks noted, "Some children are so fragile and delicate, and have a kind of beauty, that seeing them is like a religious experience." In his sculpture, Parks attempted to capture that kind of beauty and its connections to nature and the spiritual realm. He hoped that his works would convey emotion and instill an appreciation for the aesthetic value of the subject matter in ways that allow viewers to create meanings in accord with their own needs and perceptions. Commenting on his use of contemporary subject-matter, Parks noted, "The point is to create symbols that fill a spiritual need in one's own time."

"Dealing in Symbols: Profundity and the Human Figure" will be on display through mid-August 2013 at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, located in the Delaware Public Archives building at 121 Duke of York St. in Dover, Del. Operating hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.


On April 27, the Zwaanendael Museum will celebrate the birthday of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and explore her planned April 30 abdication.

The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 20 special events during the month of April 2013 at the state of Delaware's six museums. Twelve of the events celebrate Delaware's Dutch heritage which began with the founding of the state's first European colony, Swanendael, in 1631 in present-day Lewes; and a later Dutch expedition in 1651 which built Fort Casimir at present-day New Castle. All programs are free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

Go to the following for a complete listing of events.

DeBraak Hull

Viewing area inside the DeBraak hull facility. The surviving section of the ship's hull can be seen in the left of the photo.

debraak painting

Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

After a highly successful inaugural season in 2012, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will again offer public lecture/tours of the hull of His Majesty's Sloop DeBraak, a British warship that was escorting and protecting a convoy of British and American merchant ships en route to the United States when it was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798.

Lecture/tours are limited to 12 visitors per program and will begin with a special tour at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, 2013—the 215th anniversary of the sinking of the vessel. Regularly scheduled lecture/tours will then take place at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the following Mondays during 2013: June 3, 17 and 24; July 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29; Aug. 5, 12, 19 and 26; Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30; and Oct. 7 and 14.

All programs begin at the Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., where a lecture on the ship will be presented in conjunction with "A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World," an exhibit that has been on display at the museum since Dec. 1, 2012. The exhibit tells the story of the vessel, its crew and the historical context within which it operated in the late 18th century. Ticket holders will then be transported, via van, to the DeBraak hull facility in nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for a curator-led tour of the surviving section of the ship's hull.

Nonrefundable tickets for the lecture/tours are $10 per person (restricted to persons aged 10 and above) and are available through the Shop Delaware website. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

Significance of DeBraak and its ongoing conservation…

During the late-18th and early-19th centuries, sloops of war such as DeBraak played an increasingly important role in Royal Navy campaigns. These relatively small vessels combined speed, agility, shallow draft and increased firepower, all of which made them formidable naval vessels. As the only Royal Navy sloop of war from this time period that has been recovered anywhere in the world, DeBraak serves as an invaluable historical resource for a time when Britannia ruled the waves and the United States was just beginning to develop its sea legs.

The surviving section of the DeBraak's hull and its associated artifact collection have been curated by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs since they were acquired by the state of Delaware in 1992. Approximately one-third of the hull survives including the keel, keelson and framing elements of the lower hull, and a large section of the starboard (right) side. Although the division has curated the hull section for many years, it could not make it available for public visitation until improvements had been made to the facility in which it was housed.

One of the unique challenges in conserving the DeBraak's hull is the very nature of its wooden components which were preserved for almost 200 years on the ocean floor by submersion in cold water and burial in sand. If these water-logged timbers were allowed to dry, their cellular structure would collapse causing them to break apart. Consequently, conservation efforts from the very start required that the hull be kept continually hydrated by spraying it with a fine misting of water.

Remedial actions that were completed in 2012 included the construction of an improved support-system to contain the hull and the addition of a water-filtration system to regularly clean the water used to keep it wet. These improvements made it possible, for the first time, for visitors to tour the hull's storage facility beginning on June 4, 2012. The 2012 series of DeBraak lecture/tours was so well attended that the division has decided to renew them for the 2013 season. Due to the limited number of seats that are available for each lecture/tour, ticket purchases are encouraged well in advance.

Note: Restrooms are not available at the Zwaanendael Museum or at the DeBraak hull facility in Cape Henlopen State Park. Ticket holders are encouraged to use the restroom facilities at the Lewes Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, located at 120 Kings Highway adjacent to the Zwaanendael Museum, before departing for the tour.

Early Symposium

Detail from a 1654–1655 map of New Sweden by Royal Swedish Engineer Peter Lindström. The detail depicts the mouth of the Delaware Bay.

The Archaeological Society of Delaware is seeking informal, interdisciplinary presentations on archaeology and cultures of the Delaware Valley which will be presented at "The Early Colonial Delaware Valley—An Archaeological Symposium" that will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, 2013 at the New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware St., in New Castle, Del.

Now in its sixth year, the symposium is dedicated to building a regional-level dialog that can identify the uniqueness of the cultures that existed in the Delaware Valley during the early period of European colonization. Persons interested in making a presentation at the symposium should submit an abstract no later than April 26, 2013.

Admission to the symposium is free and open to the public. To submit an abstract or to make a reservation to attend the symposium, contact Craig Lukezic at or call 302-736-7407.

DE Museum of Natural History

Children enjoying a reef display at the Delaware Museum of Natural History.

For a limited time, readers of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs newsletter can receive discounted memberships to the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Members enjoy unlimited free admission to the museum's displays of dinosaurs, birds, mammals, shells, rocks and more. Through April 30, 2013, readers can obtain a one-year Household membership good for two adults and all children living in the household under the age of 17. The discounted price for the Household membership is $39 (a $60 value). In addition, museum membership provides free or reduced admission to over 350 science centers and museums nationwide.

Go to the following for the museum's Special Spring 2013 Promotion.