Delaware history just got a whole lot more interactive, and attractive! With a $7 million renovation now complete, the Delaware History Museum and the new Center for African American Heritage invited the public to celebrate their grand opening on October 1 — a day that included free admission, musical and dance recitals, visits by special characters and food trucks, children’s activities and of course a ribbon cutting.
“I think it’s beautiful,” remarked Akiya Mack, who visited the Museum on opening day with her 8-year-old daughter Annes. “Even though my daughter is young, I wanted her to know how important it is for her to know about our African American history. It really is history for all of us,” said Mack.
“Delaware: One state, many stories” invites patrons to meet the people, places and traditions of the First State. Whenever possible, the museum provides a first hand experience or story to personalize the historical perspective.
The Wall of Faces greets visitors just as they enter the African American center. An intriguing interactive exhibit where visitors can flip tiles to reveal the names, the Wall includes 70 photographs of famous and not-so-famous Delawareans. There’s Peggy Woolard, who has contributed enormously to the growth of tennis in Delaware and the U.S., and Hilda A. Davis, the first full-time African American female faculty member at the University of Delaware.
Jazz great Clifford Brown, former DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, a young Senator Joe Biden, Sen. William V. Roth, and actors Valerie Bertinelli and Ryan Philippe also make the Wall. There are also tiles with mirrors because “All Delawareans are a part of our history,” said Chief Curator Leigh Rifenburg.
Using a variety of displays and videos, the Museum covers a lot of ground — from the history of slavery and resistance, to Delaware’s farming and poultry industries, to Delaware’s coastal region and the role of Delaware in the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
“We offer lots of bold, large pictures and imagery, and in fact we were limited in the number of words which could accompany each display,” said Delaware Historical Society CEO Scott Loehr. Content specialists and museum display advisors provided the Museum guidelines for each thematic section to ensure that visitors would remain engaged and satisfied. “We want this to be a place that adults, families and school children are happy to visit time and time again,” he said.