The Delaware History Museum originally started as a Woolworth’s Department Store in downtown Wilmington dating back to the 1940’s. Today the art-deco building has evolved into one of the most interesting educational attractions in all of Delaware and houses the newly completed Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage.
About the Delaware History Museum
The museum is operated by the Delaware Historical Society, which was founded as the Historical Society of Delaware in 1864. They have since spent more than 150 years preserving, exploring, sharing, and promoting the history, heritage, and culture of Delaware.
In 2014, the museum went through its largest renovation to-date adding a two-story glass atrium that connects the museum to the neighboring historic Old Town Hall. This renovation also included the creation of the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage.
The Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage
Jane and Littleton Mitchell made a name for themselves by dedicating their lives to ensuring equal rights and opportunities for African Americans here in Delaware. Jane spent her entire working career as a nurse at the Delaware Psychiatric Hospital, and Littleton served our country as a Tuskegee Airman instructor in World War II before working as a teacher at the Governor Bacon Health Center.
The purpose of the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage is to collect, preserve, research, and present the history and heritage of Delaware’s African American community. The focal point of the center today is the Journey to Freedom exhibit, which takes visitors through ten different and important segments of African American history in Delaware – including compelling perspectives of African Americans’ struggles for human rights, freedom and dignity.
One of the most important stories told at the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage is that of Delaware’s Underground Railroad and heroes like Samuel Burris. Burris risked certain punishment to serve as a conductor on the Underground Railroad shuttling escaped slaves from Delaware and on to freedom in Pennsylvania.
Delaware History Museum Exhibits
In addition to the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, the Delaware History Museum has its own exhibits that are worth a visit. The centerpiece exhibit here is known as Discover Delaware, which offers an introduction to the state’s history through topics like Delaware’s immigrants, its maritime heritage, deep roots in agricultural, Wilmington’s evolution from industrial hub to a financial center, and its role on the warfront and at home, among other cultural and artistic contributions throughout the First State.
For the next few months, there will also be a temporary exhibit in the Old Town Hall adjacent to the museum that details the history of railroads in Delaware. This unique exhibit will demonstrate how railroads shaped the state early on and helped it transition and evolve over the years.
The Delaware History Museum, Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, and Old Town Hall are open every Wednesday through Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm and are located at 504 N. Market Street in Wilmington, Delaware with easy access from I-95 and the Wilmington Amtrak station. Admission is just $6.