Carper visits Milford Museum

Terry RogersCulture, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

Milford Museum Board President Charles Hammond speaks to Senator Tom Carper at a recent visit to the museum

On Friday, November 18, United States Senator Tom Carper visited the Milford Museum. The purpose of his visit was to learn more about the museum and offer ideas on how the organization could extend a $700,000 grant from the State of Delaware that is to be used for a new meeting room and collections area in the basement.

“As you can see, we need more space,” Steve Curtis, a museum commissioner, said. “We were very lucky to get $700,000 from the state thanks to Bryan Shupe, Dave Wilson and Charlie Postles. So, with the little bit of land we have on the side, we want to expand for a meeting room, handicap restroom facilities and then dig out the basement for better collection storage because we have a marvelous collection of objects that are all squeezed into one space, and we need to take care of it.”

Mike Wheedleton of Davis, Bowen and Friedel, who is working on the addition project with the museum, provided Senator Carper with preliminary drawings of what the addition would look like as well as the original blueprints used for the construction of what was Milford’s first post office.

“The issue is that when you add a new addition to historic buildings, all kinds of issues crop up with the mechanical systems and all that,” Curtis said. “We can show you what we have to deal with because it is all original. Claudia (Leister, Executive Director) spent the last 12 years making a pile of stuff into a real museum collection. It is all accession photographed and what we need to do now is protect it because it is very vulnerable.”

Karen McGrath, Senator Carper’s Sussex County Regional Director, suggested that the museum look into Community Facilities Grants which could provide additional funding for the expansion.

“One of the challenges is sustainability,” Senator Carper said. “You got this huge grant from the state and you want to make sure you put it to good use. As you do that, keep in mind how to use a portion of that grant to actually add sustainability. The other thing is to find out what works and do more of that. This is not the only former post office turned into a museum in the state. We were just down the road at one in Seaford and they face the same kind of challenges we are talking about here, especially with respect to sustainability. Find out what they’ve done, find out what worked.”

Senator Carper explained that his office reached out to local organizations all the time and always asked three questions. He wanted to know how the organization was doing, how the Delaware congressional delegation was doing and what they could do to help. Finally, he wanted to know what that help might be. McGrath asked if the museum had considered renewable energy, such as solar panels, geothermal and those type of items in the design.

“For sure,” Curtis said. “That’s got to be part of the wish list. We’re looking at what is the best system and I think the old system in the basement, it’s got to be modernized. It is not the original boiler, but it is pretty dated. It is also in the middle of the collection, so we have a fuel fired furnace with all kinds of piping for fresh air and all that taking up room and endangering the collection.

Nicole Rogers, Museum Operations Manager, explained that the museum had been accepted into the Collections Assessment Program (CAP) through the American Alliance of Museums that would provide a collections assessor to review the artifacts and how they are stored, providing the commissioners with a prioritized list designed to better protect and preserve those artifacts.

After discussing the new addition and the need to secure additional funding for the expansion, Senator Carper took a tour of the facility, including the basement where collections were stored. Curtis pointed out areas where water was currently leaking into the building as well as the potential for collection damage from the many pipes running over the artifacts due to where the boiler was located. After the tour, Senator Carper told Rogers to reach out to his office that afternoon to speak to staff whose specialty was museums and older buildings.

“Call him today,” Senator Carper said. “He is leaving on vacation on Monday and I want you to set up a time to meet with him in order to discuss your addition and what we may be able to do to help you guys.”

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