Best Bets: Delaware museums getting creative during shutdown

The Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes is part of the new Delaware Digital History Museum produced by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. The new platform was launched for Delawareans to continue to engage with the history of the First State during the statewide shutdown and beyond.

With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, Delaware museums and historic buildings are closed, denying a chance to share their treasures with the public.

Undaunted, many facilities have increased their online presence with virtual tours, activity books, a look at their collections, Facebook Live events and more.

•Last week, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs launched a new platform for Delawareans to continue to engage with the history of the First State with the Delaware Digital History Museum found at

It provides a variety of electronic opportunities to experience Delaware history at home.

The online museum showcases items from the state’s collections of art and objects, as well as digital exhibits, virtual tours of museums and historic sites, and videos and images of historic landmarks and architecture.

The new portal also includes a collection of “Museum From Home” learning activities for school-aged children, designed by the division’s museum and educational staff.

In addition, the Digital Museum is supplemented by regular social media updates from the division’s five museum sites — John Dickinson Plantation, The Old State House and Johnson Victrola Museum, all in Dover; the New Castle Court House Museum; and the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes.

Kaitlyn Dykes, lead historic site interpreter for the Zwaanendael Museum, has taken the lead on adding Museum Minute segments and Museum From Home activities, as well as numerous posts on the Zwaanendael Museum Facebook and Instagram pages.

She said the portal was something already in the works but the project was sped up due to the pandemic.

“There had already been some talk of developing some digital content and we had a few things living already on our existing website. We just kind of wanted to find a way to put all of that in one spot where people could find it. And then of course when this situation happened and we realized we were going to be shutting down our physical museum, we just sort of moved that timeline up a bit and just got it together as quickly as we could and got it open knowing that this would be the way most people, at least for the moment, will be experiencing our collections,” she said.

Ms. Dykes said the site should appeal to all ages.

“At each one of our sites, although I can really speak predominantly for the Zwaanendael Museum, we’ve really been trying to come up with activities and learning experiences that are good for all age groups of children; families; adult education; continuing education, just to give everyone something a little different that they can do,” she said.

“So we have little videos we are calling Museum Minutes, which focus on a small three-minute or less blurb about a history we might have told you if you had been able to come in. And then also things like scavenger hunts for kids and coloring pages and activities, stuff that kids can do.”

Currently the six videos that are posted have to do with the Zwaanendael Museum. Ms. Dykes said more will be added.

“At the moment it’s all sort of local history, so all things having to deal with stuff that happened in and around the town of Lewes where we’re located but we are hoping in the future to expand that so that other museums can be creating some content that talks a little bit about their histories in their local area. But at the moment it’s very specific,” she said.

She hopes the portal will be a great tool even after things eventually return to some state of normalcy.

“We’re only just getting started. It’s only been up and running for about a week. We’re going to keep adding to it, we’re going to keep tweaking it and we really hope to, even in the future when we are open again, to use this platform to reach people in ways that we couldn’t reach (the community) before. So we’re definitely excited to keep this moving forward in the future,” she said.

In addition to the portal, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, in conjunction with the Delaware Friends of Folk, will soon roll out digital concerts from the Old State House.

Taking a cue from their series of performers who appear in concert there, John Kidd, president of the Friends of Folk, said the first one was filmed Tuesday with Joey Fulkerson and then Wednesday with Sol Knopf.

“It’ll take a week or more for the editing before the sessions are posted on the Delaware Division of Historic and Cultural Affairs YouTube channel,” Mr. Kidd said.

“There are plans for five altogether, though the next three have yet to be confirmed.”

The project is supported by a grant to Delaware Friends of Folk from the HCA. The intent is to support local musicians featuring local HCA spaces.

“Assuming all goes well, we have talked about doing the same in Sussex and New Castle counties,” Mr. Kidd said.

This undated photo of the Harbeson Post Office is part of the Delaware Public Archives’ new social media series “Honoring Delaware’s Essential Workforce,” which spotlights Delaware’s essential workforce with a daily historical image from the Archives’ vaults. (Submitted photo)

•At the Delaware Public Archives in Dover, that facility has stepped up its online presence in the face of the continued closures.

Corey Marshall-Steele, marketing and exhibits manager for the Archives, said they added some new daily features to their social media pages to continue to share Delaware’s history.

These features join the existing daily “Delaware Snapshot” and weekly “Historic Houses of Worship” and “Marker Mondays” posts.

The newly added features are:

Delaware Spotlight: With the Delaware Spotlight, the Delaware Public Archives highlights a Delaware city or town each week by sharing a daily image from our collection along with a detailed municipality history.

Honoring Delaware’s Essential Workforce: A rarely seen photo from the Delaware Public Archives vaults honoring Delaware’s essential workforce with a daily historical image.

Special celebratory videos highlighting popular Delaware events. For example, the Delaware Public Archives premiered a video commemorating previous Dover Days celebrations last week. A highlight of the brief video is a newly digitized motion picture clip from the Dover Days celebration in 1957.

Find the Delaware Public Archives on Facebook at and on Instagram and Twitter.

In keeping students involved, the Delaware Public Archives also has 22 lesson plans online that will assist Delaware teachers and parent educators fulfill the state’s social studies needs at the secondary level. Along with dozens of online primary sources, the materials provide the standards covered, procedures, and additional information that will complement the lesson. Educators can access these materials at

If Delawareans need to do research at the Archives, they can call 302-744-5000 or email to request an appointment. Same-day appointments are not available at this time.

Should a copy of a birth, marriage, death, pardon or divorce decree be needed, people can also call the above number or use the same email address.

School transcripts may be requested via email at

• The First State Heritage Park, Delaware’s first urban “park without boundaries” linking historic and cultural sites in Dover, has stepped up its virtual game as well, posting a few times a week on its Facebook page.

This week featured a 15-minute video outlining the history of the John Bell House.

•The Air Mobility Command Museum on Dover Air Force Base posted two virtual tours on its Facebook page Thursday.

One is a five-minute look at a VC-0 while the other is the museum’s C-47 “Turf and Sport Special.”

Additionally, on the museum website at, there are photos of all of the aircraft and exhibits in the facility.

•The Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover has been offering a plethora of material online during the shutdown. But that’s not necessarily a new thing, according to museum curator Ryan Grover.

“We might be a little bit different than some of our other institutions near us in that we have been developing a lot of online content, and the ability to create online content really quickly, for the last couple of years,” he said.

“Because we’re not really close to large cities or we’re kind of far off the I-95 corridor, we put more value in our virtual visitation than perhaps many other institutions might. And so we’ve, been developing kind of two parallel paths of visitation within the museum.”

Mr. Grover notes that a good deal of that has been driven by the steady decline of field trips for local schools when students can actually visit the museum.

“So we’ve been developing a lot of virtual tours and activities and all sorts of hands-on participatory programming that you can access from our website ( So we started to develop and sort of package that into ‘Well if you’re at home, try these things.’ And we were able to do a lot of that first round of things within the first couple of days (of the shutdown). And instead of really inundating everybody with like a million things, we just started to emphasize pacing with our material.”

The Biggs Kids First Saturdays in the First State program, which has been welcoming children to the museum each month for the past decade has been turned into a Facebook Live presentation with a storytime aspect. A workbook for kids is also online.

Two temporary exhibits, “Lessons: An Exhibition by Billy Colbert” and “Stephen Althouse: Relics” were on display at the time of the closure in the middle of March.

“We felt really bad for the artists that were featured in those shows. So we formatted it to be able to share it. And then, once a week or once every couple of weeks, we put that out. That was so popular mostly through Facebook and sort of pushing the message out through Facebook, that we went back and did individual filming of three of our permanent collection galleries, and we’re planning to do more of that,” he said.

“Relics” has been extended through July 14.

Peter Sculthorpe’s 2002 oil on linen work “Outport” was the runner-up in the Biggs’ Museum’s recent “Ultimate Hidden Gem” contest. The top eight finishers will be exhibited when the Dover venue reopens.

Kerri Lacey, the Biggs marketing director, set up a March Madness-style bracket of exhibits in the Biggs’ collection that people could vote on to determine their favorite to be crowned “Biggs’ Ultimate Hidden Gem.”

The winner was a watercolor and gouache on paper entitled “Village Corner, Leipsic Del., 3/14/37, Mayor Henry Hazel on Horse,” done in 1937 by noted local artist Jack Lewis.

“I take no credit for this whatsoever. This was completely my director of marketing who did this in and above everything else. And it was just really sort of a fun thing to do. She wanted to do a March Madness and she asked us to pick out 64 objects within the collection that are not typically on view that don’t get a lot of attention within the galleries on an annual basis,” Mr. Grover said.

“And that might be because they are small objects; that might be because they are watercolors or photographs and they can only be on view for a couple of months at a time. But that we would sort of give them some love and put them out into this. It was this really inexpensive software, and the 64 got narrowed every three or four days.”

When the Biggs reopens, the top eight will be on exhibit with some extra information.

Mr. Grover is optimistic that the Biggs will reopen within the month and the annual “Award Winners” exhibit can debut June 5.

“As far we know, the governor still has that he would like to open the state or at least open the state in some capacity on or around May 15. We’re using that as our sort of our time frame to assemble as a staff, and to gauge at that moment what we’ll be able to do,” Mr. Grover said.

“That could be pushed out. We really don’t know. But in the meantime, in the last two weeks of May, I had it scheduled that we are going to be accepting artworks from the Delaware Division of the Arts (for the new exhibition). And we will have those works installed, as we expected to at the museum on that first Friday in June. It won’t be probably until that first week of June that we ultimately decide to open our doors to this exhibition or do we open with a virtual exhibition, and then open the doors when we can.”

•Finally, the Delaware Museum of Art in Wilmington has also been going online with its collections and offering online classes.

A whole section on its website at is called Connect with Art from Home, featuring videos of exhibits, tutorials on different mediums, lectures, storytimes and performances.

Manager of Studio Learning & Creative Engagement at the Delaware Art Museum, Rebecca Howell, is coordinating a video series of art projects and tutorials featuring a lineup of art instructors.

“When everything first started happening, our main goal since we had to cancel programming in person was just to provide constituents with some sort of resource, whether it was looking at it from the collection, or a project idea or something for the family, just something for people to do to see and do, and take a moment and step back and gather themselves,” Ms. Howell said.

“And now we are getting into the realm of offering online classes, brainstorming and putting that together and figuring out the technology behind it and all that good stuff. But everything so far has been on our website and social media for everybody to consume and sort of watch at their leisure.

“So now we’re really stepping into this space and thinking creatively about how to connect with people in a different way. So it’s exciting. It’s a little nerve wracking but it’s really exciting and it does open up some possibilities for the future.”


Milton-based business Frantic Frets Music and Sunroom Songwriter’s Series House Concerts in Dover will be hosting a virtual three-day music festival starting today to benefit Milton resident and local musician, Christine Havrilla, with her fight against breast cancer.

The benefit show, HavrillaPalooza, features virtual performances by over 20 area musicians who are all donating their time and talent for the event, which will be broadcast live on Facebook today from 3:45 to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 3 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 3 to 8 p.m.

Ms. Havrilla, like most working musicians, has found herself out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic when venues were forced to close down to the public mid-March. It was shortly after this that she was diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing treatments.

In addition to the music, there is an online auction with art pieces donated by various local artists. The auction, the event, a link to donate and schedule of performers can be found through the Facebook group created for the event: or

Milton concerts canceled

It was announced Thursday that the town of Milton’s summer concert series has been canceled because of virus concerns.

Now Showing

On download and DVD starting Tuesday is the Harley Quinn movie “Birds of Prey,” the Harrison Ford remake of “Call of the Wild” and a big-screen version of “Fantasy Island.”

To share news of your entertainment group, venue or event, contact Craig Horleman at 741-8224 or

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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