By Kristen Gloss
The history of Milford is what gives the city its character. The Milford Museum will present the community with the artifacts and displays that reveal its story again at the grand re-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will take place on July 24, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The ceremony will provide refreshments on the lawn with strolling musicians. The mayor and city council will be there as well and everyone can view the new exhibits.
The museum, which opened in 1983, was originally the post office before it held the history of the city. It was founded by Catherine Downing Holcombe and was an organization run entirely by volunteers for the first 25 years. In 2011 Executive Director Claudia Leister was the first staff member to be hired to help fulfill the needs of the museum.
“So many people don’t even realize what [the building] is. Our goal is to increase the visibility of the museum,” said Leister. “For newcomers, people want to know about the city they are moving to.”
The museum was closed for renovations to create an appearance that encouraged visitors, including the addition of a handicap ramp and a parking lot in the back. The structure had been built in 1910 and parts of it were rotting before the renovations.
“We wanted to give the museum a different look, to make it more inviting and accommodating,” said previous Milford Museum President and Chairman David Kenton. “People don’t have to walk through the imposing marble steps in front anymore.”
Inside the building, the museum was repainted and a secondary exhibit was added in the basement.
“The renovations helped add more exhibit space. This allowed us to show two times as much stuff because of the setup,” Kenton said.
The museum expanded the three main exhibits on Milford businesses, early medical doctors, and dentistry like the L.D. Caulk Company, which started in Milford but is an international company now.
Executive Director Claudia Leister has been working to “get a handle on what the museum has.” Even with all of the renovations, she wants to work more on the collection by adding a numbering system to each artifact. Leister has worked to digitize the collection of over 2,000 photographs. “If people want to research early baseball teams, they’ll be able to find them and copy the pictures,” Leister said.
There are many original documents that the museum has that haven’t been organized yet, and the museum comes into possession of more artifacts frequently.
“We put new artifacts into the recent acquisition cases; we don’t just stick it in a box in storage,” said Leister.
There are several displays that are consistently changing like the evolving civil war exhibit and the changing Delaware lighthouse exhibit. Each of these displays aims to promote Milford history to the public and to preserve it for the future.
“Milford is a tourism community,” said Kenton. “People come to Milford for retirement and tourism. It’s history makes it a more interesting place.”