Ribbon cutting ceremonies are usually held when a new building has been constructed – a school, a library, a hospital, etc. I have attended many of these and enjoy the excitement that comes along with a new facility with new possibilities.
Sometimes, though, ribbon cuttings can be held to mark the beginning of a new era for an existing building. And these can be just as exciting. We celebrated one such event on Delaware Day, December 7, when I joined Governor Markell, Secretary O’Mara, and many others in marking the grand opening of the new First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries.
The Welcome Center is located in the Delaware Public Archives, next to Legislative Hall in Dover. Though certainly not a new institution, the Archives building itself had a bit of a rebirth 10 years ago, when it was expanded beyond the original Hall of Records.
Now, part of the building is entering yet another new phase in its service to the people of Delaware. Since the Welcome Center moved from the first floor of the Biggs Museum to the Archives last year – partly as a cost-cutting measure, and partly to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its function – we have been making some changes which we think will increase the number of people who visit Dover and Kent County and will help them enjoy their experience here more.
Visitors to the Welcome Center will be able to pick up lots of information on what to see and do in the area and will enjoy a comfortable atmosphere in which to watch a video highlighting nearby sites of interest.
The Welcome Center serves as the home base for the First State Heritage Park — a “park without borders” — which exists as a partnership between the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in my department and the Delaware State Parks under the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. It also includes the City of Dover and private organizations.
As the Secretary of State, one of my responsibilities is to preserve, protect, and promote our historical and cultural treasures. This includes buildings such as the Old State House and the Old New Castle Court House.
It also includes official and personal documents, photos, and other objects that tell the history of Delaware and its people. The galleries in the new Welcome Center will hold rotating exhibits and displays showing off some of these fascinating objects.
Right now, visitors can see two displays at the Welcome Center and Galleries. One of these, entitled “USS Delaware: An American Battleship,” uses objects, photographs, and ceremonial silver to tell the story of the largest of eight American warships bearing the name “Delaware.”
The other, which just opened this week, is entitled “The Civil War: Five Delaware Soldiers’ Stories.” The display was planned to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, which will be observed in 2011.
Whether you are a Delawarean or a visitor to our state, I encourage you to visit the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, maybe take a tour, and discover some of what makes Delaware unique.