In 2013 the Milford Museum had an exciting year as they attracted more visitors than ever before. In fact, since bringing on Executive Director Claudia Leister in 2011, the Milford Museum has seen a steady increase in revenue and active members. A focus on telling the story of Milford to town residents and visitors, Leister’s team has helped to reinvigorate Milford’s connection with its past.
Last year two new exhibits at the museum included a look at the Milford Memorial Hospital School of Nursing from 1925 to 1976 and a historic account of the Carlisle Fire Department and major fires that shaped Milford.
“Milford has been so affected by fires over much of its history,” stated Claudia Leister. “The face of downtown Walnut Street has been changed so much and I think it is important for people to understand how. Our mission is to preserve Milford history for the present and future generation through our collection.”
In 2014 the Milford Museum will feature an exhibit on the history of the Milford School District. With six public schools currently serving the Milford School District the school system continues to be an integral part of the Milford community. In addition to teaching future generations of children, the school has also become the third largest employers in the city of Milford with 523 employees as of September 12, 2012, according to the City of Milford 2013 Comprehensive Plan.
The district now covers an area of 166 square miles in Kent and Sussex Counties and serves approximately 4,100 students in Milford, Lincoln, Slaughter Beach, Ellendale and Felton. The Milford museum exhibit will focus on the early days of education in Milford including the Milford Academy which came into existence sometime around 1810. Beginning as a private school, the Milford Academy was purchased as a public school in 1946.
The history of the former Milford Middle School will also be on display as the Museum highlights its historical significance during the Civil Rights Movement in America. The original building that appears at the front entrance of the school, adorned with solid pillars on both sides of the doorway, was constructed in 1929, with additional wings added for an increased student population between the 1940s and the 1960s. The school was in the national spotlight in 1954 as eleven classmates became some of the first African American students to attend a previously all-white school as they attempted school integration that was recognized under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. The Milford School District recognized those eleven individuals in 2012 as those students received honorary diplomas during Milford High School Graduation Ceremonies that year.
“Talking about the Milford schools is a hot topic right now with the decision to close the Milford Middle School and rebuild a new facility,” commented Leister.” The school district is such an important part of our community and we have a wealth of information and photographs to share with the public.”
The Milford Museum is always accepting donations to their collection, which is preserved and displayed at 121 South Walnut Street in downtown Milford. Director Claudia Leister continues her commitment to obtain a complete inventory of the historical records at the museum so that each historic artifact can be easily found and placed on display to the public. Claudia encourages individuals to call the museum at 302-424-1080 if they find any historical documents or objects.
“I do not want people to think that their donation will sit in the basement of the museum,” commented Leister. “We want these items to be on display for everyone to see.”
The commitment to create a more visible and interactive museum will continue in 2014 as the downtown location will greet visitors with an electronic kiosk that hosts a myriad of historic photographs and videos on Milford’s heritage. Claudia also desires to build a greater partnership with the Milford School District, encouraging Milford classrooms to visit the archives. The Milford Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 to 3:30pm and Sunday 1 to 3:30pm. For more information on the museum’s collections and exhibits, individuals can visit http://www.milforddemuseum.org/.