Winterthur, While Closed to Public, Opens Heart to Community

Restaurant Associates General Manager Brian Kimble (gray t-shirt) helped chefs at Winterthur assemble meals for 150 families at the Food Bank of Delaware

The splendor of Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library – its vast collection, its delicious cuisine, even its outdoor gardens and walking paths – are currently off-limits to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The treasured institution, however, saw an opportunity to help some neighbors and make some important donations to organizations that are currently under pressure in response to the crisis.
Earlier this week, community-oriented people on staff began to look into possible ways to give back to neighbors. Restaurant Associates, its restaurant contractor, delivered enough meals of pasta and roasted vegetables to feed 150 families of four to the Food Bank of Delaware, as well as more than 100 quarts of vegetable soup.
Eggs, milk, cheese, produce and several boxes of non-perishable pantry items were also part of the donation — more than 600 pounds of food.
“They had a huge supply of food coming in, and nothing else to do with it. The obvious choice for them was The Food Bank,” said Winterthur Communications Director Mark Nardone.
Winterthur floral arrangements donated to seniors
Flowers and plants from Winterthur are also able to live on. Rooms at Winterthur are decorated with fresh arrangements nearly every day. Potted plants are kept at doorways and entrances and at the conservatory. They would have died without being watered regularly.
Nardone says they went to an organization known as Petals Please, which in turn made sure the flowers could be enjoyed at senior centers and by people who are shut-ins.

With the forced closure due to the coronavirus. Floral arrangements, virtually all made with flowers from the garden at Winterthur, were donated to Petals Please

Winterthur has been contributing flowers to Petals Please for about a year. Like the food donation, the goal was to make use of things that might otherwise go to waste.
“These are hard times for everybody. We understand that. Unemployment claims are up astronomically right now. We’re all in this together,” Nardone said. “Whatever you can do to help your neighbors is a good thing.”
Conservation specialists donate special gloves to healthcare workers
Meanwhile, people in Winterthur’s conservation department who use nitrile gloves to handle works of art (because oils from their hands could damage the paintings or interact with chemicals) can’t do the work they normally would right now. They were able to donate unopened boxes of gloves to Westside Family Healthcare in Wilmington.
“I don’t know how they found Westside, but you know that’s a great organization. They serve a population that needs extra help, so that was a great place,” Nardone said. “A lot of the medical facilities, they are looking for things like that. We had some masks, some face shields and boxes and boxes of gloves.”
This effort was coordinated at a time when Winterthur staff were off-site, not talking with each other like they normally would.
“So, it’s just nice to know that everybody sort of has that service mindset,” Nardone said. Winterthur was able to keep its outdoor areas open to the public as a place for people to enjoy some peace and quiet and practice social distancing – but only for a short time. Governor John Carney’s modified emergency order forced the trails to close as well.
Winterthur also was forced to cancel its beloved Point-to-Point steeplechase and tailgate festival, which was scheduled for the first Sunday of May. It had also recently opened an exhibition, “Re-Vision 20/20: Through a Woman’s Lens,” in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to The Constitution that earned women the right to vote.
Winterthur’s Facebook page has a video on the current exhibition. Online tours of some of its rooms are also available. Nardone said the outreach missions, although unique to these times, are based upon the true mission of Winterthur.
“Really, museums exist fundamentally for people,” Nardone said. “We want people to see what we have. We want people to experience what we have. They can’t do that in normal ways right now, but we still want to provide a service and a resource. We’ve been lucky to be able to do that.”


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About the Contributor

Mark Fowser

Mark Fowser

Mark Fowser is a veteran broadcast-journalist in Delaware and New Jersey. He has anchored and reported with WDEL, WHYY, Delaware1059, WILM and Delaware First Media (now Delaware Public Media). Mark lives in New Castle.


  • As a volunteer docent at Winterthur, I’m immensely proud that serving the public continues in this ‘out of the box’ way. We’ll be back and eager to resume tours.