Delaware state museums reopening with self-guided tours

The Old State House in Dover is one of five state museums that will be reopening Friday. (Submitted photo)

Delaware’s five state museums will begin reopening this week with self-guided tours by reservation.

In accordance with the Phase I reopening plans issued by Gov. John Carney, museums administered by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA) will accept reservations for tours starting today, with the first set of tours scheduled for Friday through Sunday.

HCA’s team of site managers and historical interpreters have spent the last several weeks retooling tour programming in anticipation of reopening.

Delaware’s state museums include the John Dickinson Plantation, the Old State House and the Johnson Victrola Museum in Dover, the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes, and the New Castle Court House Museum.

“We’re going to try to give people some sort of experience at our museums that feels normal and has all of the content and the information that we normally put out, just sort of in a different way and adjusted in a way that we can be as safe as possible for everybody,” said Doug Denison, director of Community Relations for the Delaware Department of State.

Tours will take place at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Sundays (except for the Johnson Victrola Museum).

To make a tour reservation, patrons must call the museum they wish to visit.

For the John Dickinson Plantation, call 302-739-3277.

For the Johnson Victrola Museum, call 302-744-5054.

For the New Castle Court House Museum, call 302-323-4453.

For The Old State House, call 302-744-5054.

For the Zwaanendael Museum, call 302-645-1148.

Self-guided tours will be 30 minutes in length and will include reference materials that can be accessed via smartphone or in single-use printed form.

“We’ll have everything in PDF form so you if you have a smartphone, you can call it up as you are taking the tour,” Mr. Denison said.

Due to space constraints, some museum areas will remain closed for the time being.

Tour groups will be limited to four or six visitors, depending on the museum, and cloth face coverings must be worn at all times by staff, volunteers and patrons.

Mr. Denison said all public museum areas will be cleaned between tour groups, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, they will remain closed for the time being.

A statement issued last week said, in part, “With the beginning of Phase 1 in Delaware, we will be eligible to reopen under strict guidelines beginning June 1. However, we have chosen not to open on that date to allow us the time to build upon the safe environment that you’ve come to expect and enjoy at the Biggs.

“When we reopen, in addition to the recommendations set forth by the state of Delaware, we will be closely monitoring those published by the CDC and enforcing our own standards to ensure optimal comfort and safety for our visitors and staff. However, we want to assure you that a visit being different, will not mean it will be less than before. … With that said, we’re pleased to announce that the “Elite 8” and “Award Winners XX” exhibitions will be opening digitally on (Friday).”

Details of a reopening plan will be released at a later date. For more information, visit BiggsMuseum.org.

The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village Delaware Public Archives remain closed as well. If Delawareans need to do research, call 302-744-5000 or email Archives@Delaware.gov to request an appointment.