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  Archived Posts From: 2013


How Do I Preserve My Documents, Photographs and Digital Memories?

Written on: December 20th, 2013 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryEvents at the ArchivesPhotographspreservationResearch Room

Looking for a way to preserve all those holiday photos and videos for future generations to see? On Saturday, January 4 at 10:30 a.m., the Delaware Public Archives will show how to preserve items such as old photographs, documents and digitized memories on CDs, DVDs, and flash drives. This workshop will provide you with the knowledge needed to care for and preserve those irreplaceable memories. This preservation workshop will be presented by the staff of the Delaware Public Archives (DPA) and the Delaware Government Information Center (GIC) and will include basic information and instruction on proper handling and storage of family papers, photographs and digital media to ensure long term preservation.

Archives staff member, Sarah Denison, will present information on the conservation and preservation of paper documents and photographs.  Ms. Denison has processed a number of collections including Civil War letters in the Small Manuscript Collection, Board of Education photographs, Sussex County Orphans Court Records, and the Caley Postcard Collection.  She has most recently completed the processing and cataloguing of the Vietnam Mailbag Collection.

Concerning digital records, Mike Mahaffie, Deputy Director GIC, will address what is needed to save your digital memories. Highlighting his discussion will be a quick history of ways people have been saving digital records, things to do to determine what is important, what is needed to maintain your digital moments as technology changes, and the various ways available to save what’s important to you based on cost and longevity.

The workshop is free to the public.  No reservations are required.  For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail

Photo of Sarah Denison and Mike Mahaffie

Sarah Denison and Mike Mahaffie

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Behind the Scenes: Internal Functions of the Delaware Public Archives

Written on: November 26th, 2013 in Delaware HistoryInside the DPAPhotographs

Photo of Records Management Specialist Corey Lucas Retrieving Records in the Archives

Records Management Specialist Corey Lucas Retrieving Records

The Delaware Public Archives preserves and exhibits many of Delaware’s most vibrant historical documents. Our rich Delaware history can be viewed by visiting the research room, browsing our Collection Gateway online, or by visiting our wonderful exhibit galleries. In addition to the public pieces of Delaware history, we are a secure repository to a myriad of government records and historical documents, many of which can only be accessed by authorized state agencies. With the advent of typewriters, fax machines, and digital printers, paper records were being created at an exponential rate. In 1978, the Government Services section of the Archives was established to adequately meet the needs of state agencies.


Photo of Vault 400

Vault 400

Government Services has a two-prong approach to address its two main functions. The first function is provided by our Information Resource Specialists. They meet with each state agency’s records officers to properly prepare materials for accession. This process includes developing and maintaining a retention schedule. A retention schedule is a guideline that dictates the life-cycle of all documents under the agency’s control. The life-cycle of a document or item is often determined by its significance: the more vital the record, the longer we keep it! Some records will even be housed here permanently. The second function is conducted by the Record Services section, which was created to give outside agencies the means to request files that are stored within the Delaware Public Archives.  Record Services ensures that requested records are made available to state agencies so that they may provide a service to the public without undue delay. Record Services maintains a very detailed tracking system in order to manage the records created by the state. It is through the dedicated support of the entire archives staff that a citizen seeking important materials is able to obtain them in a timely manner. Behind the scenes there is an experienced and motivated group of public servants to meet the expanding needs of the citizens of Delaware and its government.

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Happy Birthday, Joe!

Written on: November 20th, 2013 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryPhotographs

Photo of US Vice President Joe Biden at Return Day

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at Return Day

The Delaware Public Archives would like to wish Vice President Joe Biden a Happy Birthday. Vice President Biden served as our United States Senator from 1973- 2009. To see some pictures of Joe, take a look at the Facebook album we posted a few years back honoring one of Delaware’s favorite sons.

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The Delaware Public Archives Salutes President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Written on: November 14th, 2013 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryPhotographsResearch Room

The Delaware Public Archives honors the achievements and memory of our 35th President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination (November 22, 1963). This DPA photograph shows the ribbon cutting at the Delaware Turnpike (I-95) Dedication Ceremony on November 14, 1963. Eight days later, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.


Photo of N. Maxon Terry, Delaware Governor Elbert N. Carvel, President John F. Kennedy, Maryland Governor Millard J. Tawes.

(Left to Right) N. Maxon Terry, Delaware Governor Elbert N. Carvel, President John F. Kennedy,
Maryland Governor Millard J. Tawes.


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Hurricane Season is Here!

Written on: October 29th, 2013 in Blog PostsPhotographspreservationRecords Management

Photo of Women Recovering Wet Records

Wet Records Recovery

As we enter the hurricane and severe storm season, the Delaware Public Archives strongly encourages agencies to evaluate the storage environment of their records.

During your assessment and planning, please consider the following:
• Damage from leaking roofs
• Exposed windows and doors
• Damage from flooding due to improper drainage, cracked foundations and high water levels outside the facility

While the records maintained on electronic data systems may be backed-up by DTI or a vendor contract, many agencies still actively use and retain hard copy records. The loss of Vital records may greatly compromise the agencies’ operations; therefore, the DPA highly recommends for agencies to move high-risk/vital records to a safe area. At a minimum, please remove as many boxes as possible from the floor, especially if your agency/section is located in an area that is prone to flooding.

Please remember that the first 24 to 48 hours after a disaster are the most critical for safeguarding any information. For instance, records that become damp can quickly develop mold, and, if left untreated, the records will likely become unsalvageable.

The staff at Delaware Public Archives can provide expert advice, vendor contacts, and at times, manpower to assist agencies with their disaster recovery efforts. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact your assigned analyst or use our general line (302) 744-5000.

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What’s the Story with Delaware License Plates?

Written on: October 21st, 2013 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryEvents at the ArchivesResearch Room

Although citizens in other states may view the registration tags on their cars as a government requirement, Delawareans have embraced their license plates as a status symbol and a connection to their past. On Saturday, November 2 at 10:30 a.m., Mike Williams, Chief of Administrative Policy & Communications for the Division of Motor Vehicles at the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), will present a special program at the Delaware Public Archives about the history of Delaware license plates and why they are so interesting to the citizens of the First State.  While a driver may not think twice about the significance of their tag number, native Delaware drivers barter, buy, and sell to get a favorite number for themselves.

In exploring this unique part of First State culture – the program will include such topics as the desirable black & white porcelain sets from the 1940s, the black stainless steel tags from the 1950s, and the story behind the controversial font-style changes in the early 1990s. 

Mr. Williams, a native of the First State, is a graduate of the University of Delaware and has worked for the state since 1995.  He began his state career as a Community Relations Officer with the Office of Highway Safety, before moving to DelDOT in 1997 as primary media spokesperson.  After serving as Manager of the DelDOT Public Relations Office for six years, he joined the staff of the DMV as Chief of Communications in 2012.

Mr. Williams’ interest in license plates was fostered as a teenager by his grandfather.  As with most collectors, he always had the “bug” for collecting, beginning with baseball cards, coins and comic books as a youth.  Mr. Williams was instrumental in the design and development of Delaware’s Centennial Plate Program that was recognized as the “Best Plate of 2009” by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA).

The License Plates program is free to the public.  No reservations are required.  For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail

Photo of Mike Williams

Mike Williams

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Happy Archives Month!

Written on: October 2nd, 2013 in Delaware HistoryResearch Room

During October the Delaware Public Archives celebrates American Archives Month.

This Archive is one of the oldest public archives in the nation; beginning in 1905!   From handwritten notes and documents to the latest digital imagines of many of our holdings and collections, we have over 10.4 million documents and over 800,000 photographs that are yours for the looking!  And a staff of professionals to help you in any way!   Come visit us at the Archives and talk to an Archivist and let us lead you to Delaware’s public recorded history!


Stephen Marz, CA State Archivist

Photo of Archives Month Proclamation signed by Governor Jack Markell, 2013

Archives Month Proclamation signed by Governor Jack Markell, 2013

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The Notorious Story of Patty Cannon: Separating Fact from Fiction

Written on: September 18th, 2013 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryEvents at the ArchivesResearch Room

In the early nineteenth century, Patty Cannon was the alleged leader of a notorious gang in Sussex County that was known for kidnapping possibly hundreds of free African Americans for sale into slavery. Featured on an episode of the PBS series “History Detectives,” and the subject of numerous fictional and non-fiction accounts, Cannon’s life and the gang’s exploits have become the stuff of legend.

On Saturday, October 5, at 10:30 a.m., Dr. Carol Wilson of Washington College will present a program at the Delaware Public Archives that will focus on the life of this infamous villain in Delaware history.  Dr. Wilson will discuss the many archival sources that exist which have enabled her to sort fact from fabrication. Equally important, Dr. Wilson will use the story of Patty Cannon to examine the way historical memory is created and changes over time, especially when the complex issues of border-state slavery, race, and gender are intertwined.

Dr. Wilson is the Arthur A. and Elizabeth R. Knapp Professor of American History at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. She has taught for over twenty years and has served as chair of the History Department. As a specialist in early national and antebellum African American history, her work has centered around the boundaries of racial identity and status. Professor Wilson is the author of two books, Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865, published in 1994; and The Two Lives of Sally Miller: A Case of Racial Mistaken Identity in Antebellum New Orleans, published in 2007.

In 2012, Dr. Wilson worked as a consultant for an episode of the NBC series “Who Do You Think You Are?” in which actor Blair Underwood explored his ancestry. Dr.  Wilson was also featured on the PBS program “History Detectives” in an episode on Patty Cannon.

Dr. Wilson’s program is free to the public.  No reservations are required.  For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail

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Sons of the American Revolution Make Major Donation to the Archives

Written on: August 16th, 2013 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryPhotographsResearch Room

On August 7, the Delaware Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (DESSAR) donated to the Delaware Public Archives seven hundred completed applications for membership to their organization which preserve records related to the events leading up to and during the American Revolution.

Delaware Public Archives Director Stephen M. Marz added, “This will be a heavily used collection because it contains so much information on Delaware families.  The DESSAR deserves a tremendous amount of credit for donating these records to the Archives because the documents trace back to the beginnings of the organization. To have this collection at the Delaware Public Archives is truly an honor.”

Since 1891, many Delaware men have honored their patriotic ancestors by joining the DESSAR.   Each applicant is required to research and prove through documented evidence that an ancestor provided assistance during the American Revolutionary War period.  These findings are submitted onto the DESSAR membership application.  Dating from 1891 to 1976, these original documents are a wealth of family history information and will be instrumental in helping the genealogy community make connections to their Revolutionary War roots as well as historians as they capture Delaware’s  personal connections to this historical time.

After the applications have been processed by the Archives staff, the full collection will be available for research by the public in the fall of 2013.

Photo of the Delaware Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (DESSAR)

Delaware Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (DESSAR) members join Delaware Public Archives Director Stephen M. Marz for the donation of the DESSAR membership applications. From left: Troy Foxwell, first vice president; George Contant, member; Michael Keen, historian; Director Marz; George Jones, president; George Locke, secretary; Jack Lewis, past president.


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Deer Vietnam

Written on: August 13th, 2013 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryPhotographsResearch Room

1st Lt. Robert Nowaczyk of Claymont and a Sika Deer

1st Lt. Robert Nowaczyk of Claymont and a Sika Deer

While indexing the Vietnam Mailbag Records, we came across this image from June 1971 of 1st Lt. Robert Nowaczyk of Claymont and a Sika deer. A deer in Vietnam? Why, yes! Sika deer lived throughout eastern Asia as far south as Vietnam and as far north as Russia. Not only is this image a special reminder that life continues for soldiers even in war, but the deer photographed in this image are largely extinct now in Asia, though their population remains bountiful in Japan.

This picture is one of the many treasures found in the Vietnam Mailbag Records. The letters and photos that make up the collection were composed for Nancy’s Vietnam Mailbag, a column written by Nancy Lynch that ran in The News-Journal from 1968-1972. The column featured stories, photos, poetry and news from Delaware soldiers in Vietnam. The collection is currently being indexed for digitization.

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