Chamber Highlights Historic Tourism

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CCGM President Mike Kazala, Guest Speakers Claudia Leister and Russ McCabe, CCGM Executive Director Jo Schmeiser

On Wednesday, July 17 the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford hosted their Quarterly Membership Luncheon at Georgia House in downtown Milford. Guest speakers Claudia Leister, Director of the Milford Museum, and Russ McCabe ,former State Archivist, spoke on the topic of historic tourism and its effect on small towns economies.

Claudia Leister became the first Executive Director for the Milford Museum two years ago and has been raising the visibility of the museum since day one on the job. A Milford native, Claudia has worked for Delaware State Museums as Collections Manager for 34 years prior to becoming a member of the Board of Directors at the Milford Museum. Since 2011 Claudia has been dedicated to taking inventory of the museum’s collection and digitalizing historical photographs to be sure that no stone is let unturned in Milford’s historical record. Recently opening an exhibit highlighting the history of Milford’s Carlisle Fire Company, Claudia plans to create a new exhibit this fall focused on the history of the Milford School District. More than just a collection of dates, Claudia firmly believes that the presence of the Milford Museum and its ability to promote the town’s rich history will have a positive effect on the local economy.

“We really have a fascinating history here in Milford and we have seen an increase in the traffic to the museum this past year,” commented Claudia. “I hope that people are realizing that there are enough interesting things to do in downtown Milford to keep them busy for a whole day’s visit, all within walking distance.” The Milford Museum is open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays 10am to 3:30pm and on Sundays 1pm to 3:30pm.

Guest speaker Russ McCabe was born in Milford and raised in Georgetown. Russ began his career at the Delaware Public Archives working more than 30 years to preserve the historical legacy of Delaware for future generations. As Division Director, he was responsible for budget management and oversight of the agency before he retired in July 2009. On Delaware Day, December 7, McCabe was recognized for his hard work when he received the Governor’s Heritage Award from Governor Jack Markell.

A former State Archivist, Russ spoke to the Chamber crowd about the growing awareness of Milford throughout the state of Delaware and the important role that its heritage plays in attracting not only visitors to the town but reengaging residents of Milford.

“Milford in my opinion is getting there, they are starting to get it,” commented McCabe. “A decade ago downtown Milford would have been one of the last places on the list of Delaware destinations, that is all changing. People are interested in what makes you different and Milford has a unique story to tell.”

Downtown Milford is an official stop on the Delaware History Trail, an initiative that McCabe help create through the Delaware Tourism Office. The trail highlights details of the downtown area including the three National Register of Historic Places Historic Districts, an outstanding local museum located in a former Post Office, the landmark Parson Thorne Mansion and the recently restored Vinyard Shipyard. The Delaware History Trail sign is located on North Walnut Street, next to Riverfront Theatre on the banks of the Mispillion River.

McCabe ended the luncheon with a challenge to the businesses in attendance. “The businesses community and ‘history huggers’ need to embrace each other and bring a conscience focus to the relationship,” stated McCabe. “There is a growing value in heritage tourism and the whole community will benefit from it.”