The Delaware Historical Society is the statewide, non-profit organization that explores, preserves, shares, and promotes Delaware history, heritage, and culture to strengthen our community. Our mission reflects an idea that the staff and volunteers of the Delaware Historical Society believe in very strongly: history is an integral part of our daily lives. We use it every day to make decisions that inform and direct us. Indeed without it we would not be able to make sense of the world around us because people, places, and events would have no context. The understanding and connection that history fosters with people and places also helps to create a stronger community. Educators at the Delaware Historical Society draw upon the Society’s Delaware-based artifact and archive collections and stories to reinforce a link between past and present. At every age history guides and enriches our lives, and therefore the Delaware Historical Society’s educational programs and philosophy embrace audiences of all ages.
Within the classroom, history provides background and meaning to important literary works, math theorems, and scientific discoveries. In short, in addition to serving as a distinct discipline, history is an important component of all subjects. Therefore, the staff of the Delaware Historical Society believes that history and the historian’s skills should be a part of the foundation of every student’s education. And although understanding history does include textbooks and research, complementary experiential learning brings the subject to life. We offer a variety of hands-on programs at the Delaware History Museum and Old Town Hall in Wilmington and the Read House and Gardens in New Castle for students in grades K-6. The programs explore significant historical topics through the local Delaware story. We are committed to providing a statewide Delaware history experience; if students cannot make the trip to our sites, we also offer outreach programs in schools throughout the state. Our programs can be viewed online at http://www.dehistory.org/School_Programs.htm or teachers can contact the Delaware Historical Society to receive a complete program listing that includes a full-color reproduction of an 1838 map from the Delaware Historical Society’s collections. Map activities on our website school programs page supplement the mailing.
For older students the Delaware Historical Society promotes experiences that encourage a more intensive exploration of history. The interest in history sparked by hands-on educational programming at a young age is further developed through guided exploration of historical themes and authentic documents and artifacts. Students in grades 6 through 12 can participate in History Day, a statewide competition that invites students to research a different topic each year and create a paper, project, performance, or website that demonstrates synthesis of primary and secondary source materials. Winners at the state level then participate in a national competition. The program promotes requisite history skills and discipline, but also encourages creativity and ingenuity. Students who participate in the competition develop valuable skills that improve their performance in all subjects, including history. At the college level, the Historical Society provides internship opportunities that allow students to gain hands-on experience with museum collections and educational programming. These training opportunities help graduate and undergraduate students decide upon or prepare for a career in the field.
Educational experiences, however, are not limited to matriculated learners. Through lectures and programs such as our premier Signature Series, the Delaware Historical Society features a variety of presenters highlighting diverse aspects of Delaware history and culture. These educational programs encourage understanding of our shared history and experience and forge connections between fellow community members, as do on-site and traveling exhibitions. We also encourage exploring history throughout the state through a collection of geocaches located at sites themed to exhibitions at the Delaware History Museum; locating the caches through GPS navigation provides a sense of adventure in discovering the rich history of Delaware. Through the Delaware Historical Society blog This Morning Is History we also strive to make connections with our Delaware and global neighbors by exploring the history each of us makes every day. Part of our role as Delaware historians is to help our community members see that the daily events and objects we take for granted quickly become a part of our collective history.
As our education philosophy reflects, we believe history education is valuable at every stage of life. Understanding and applying history skills make us better students, neighbors, and decision-makers. We invite you to come make history with us!
Michele Anstine is the Assistant CEO of the Delaware Historical Society. She serves as the Society’s Chief Program Officer and Director of the Read House and Gardens in historic New Castle. Michele is also President of the Tri-State Coalition of Historic Places.