The Milford Museum, located on Walnut Street downtown, is increasing its hours, expanding its services and reaching out to the community in an effort to raise awareness of Milford’s historical significance in Kent and Sussex County. The first step was the establishment and hiring of an Executive Director for the museum to facilitate the new approach.
Claudia Furnish Leister will become the first Executive Director for the Milford Museum this summer. She has experience with historical archives working for Delaware State Museums as Collections Manager for 34 years. She has been a member of the Board of Directors at the Milford Museum for 2 years and grew up in Milford while attended grades 1-9.
President of the Museum, Dave Kenton, describes the decision to hire Mrs. Leister as Executive Director. “The museum has not been open regular hours for some time and some from the community do not even know about the museum,” commented Mr. Kenton. “Claudia has the experience and personality needed to grow our visibility.”
Funds for the Executive Director position were raised through volunteer efforts and private donors. Richard Y. Johnson donated a challenge grant to the Museum of $12,500 per year for three years if the Museum meets their fundraising goal of $100,000. So far they have been able to raise $84,000.
Mrs. Leister is excited to take on the new position and looks forward to coming back to Milford. Her first responsibility at the Milford Museum will be to get a hold of what the museum physically and intellectually has collected. They have been accepting collections since 1983 for research purposes and recently received a grant from the Delaware Humanities Forum to begin digitizing all 1,500 photos the Museum has collected.
“I want to raise the image of the Museum,” said Claudia. “I hope that through this position I can grow the Museum so large that we will need to look for a new building. The towns of Lewes, Rehoboth and Milton have all been able to take their museums to the next level by developing an Executive Director position.”
Mrs. Leister would also like to work more closely with the Milford School District to help implement Milford history into the curriculum.
“Most of the kids in our schools do not know about the museum or the history of their own town,” commented Claudia. “If we can introduce Milford’s history to them in small portions I think they would enjoy learning about their home town.”
Currently the Milford Museum has had two exhibits a year. This year the main gallery, Civil War 1961, displays the historical significance of the Civil War and Milford’s connection. The main gallery, which for the most part remains the same, is an exhibit that illustrates Milford’s history including Caulk Dental Company, Milford Memorial Hospital and the shipyards on the Mispillion River.
In recent years the Museum has expanded to the basement of their property on Walnut Street as collections have increased. There is also a window display downtown that shows the beginning of Milford District Schools and their history. At the Milford Library, museum volunteers are working on creating a baseball exhibit that features the late Art Gunning, a professional baseball player who was part of the Milford Giants between the years of 1939-1941.
The Milford Museum will be extending their hours to Tuesday through Thursday 10am to 2pm, Friday and Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sunday 1pm to 4pm.