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Cool Off at Delaware's Wonderful Museums

Cool Off at Delaware’s Wonderful Museums

If you’ve spent a lot of time creating a beautiful garden for your new home you’re probably pretty happy with our summer season so far. The long spring and relatively few days of super-hot temperatures have kept annuals and perennials fresh and strong, and the precipitation level has enabled us to enjoy lots of beach time balanced by indoor days when one can look out and see how wonderful everything looks after a good rain. 

Unfortunately, we can count on brutal temps and cloying humidity ahead. If you still want to spend most of your time outside there are lots of great parks offering shady trails for walking and biking. But there are also so many fabulous museums where you can spend hours enriching your brain in air conditioned comfort.

Since we have friends and neighbors all over the state, I’ve spotlighted a few of my favorites.

In Sussex County, Shipwrecks and Settlements

If you get to know folks who have lived in or our beach communities for decades chances are they’ll tell you about the discovery of the H.M.S. DeBraak in the mid-1980s. It was a tremendous event, covered by The New York Times, Washington Post, and scores of other media outlets largely because over two centuries the stories about its wreckage in 1798 had become legends.

For years people believed the ship was Dutch in origin (DeBraak is Dutch for “beagle”) but historians largely agree it was probably built in Britain even though she initially sailed against that country under the Dutch flag. After her initial discovery off Cape Henlopen, the first exploration effort was a disaster for anyone who cared about history since the salvages cared mostly about valuable treasures and discarded items ranging from pottery to an old stove to hair combs that have led historians to believe women sailed the ocean along with men on the ship.

The good news is that thanks to years of more responsible stewardship of the wreck, you can see all kinds of relics at the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum at 708 Coastal Highway in Fenwick. Read more at the museum’s engaging and informative Web site at

Up the coast in historic downtown Lewes is the Zwaanendael Museum, a beautiful brick building that’s become an iconic symbol of the town. One especially interesting fact is that it was built in 1931, well into the Great Depression, a telling reminder of how much Lewes residents have always valued their heritage. As evidenced by its architecture, modeled after the Town Hall in Hoorn, a town in the Netherlands, it commemorated the 300th anniversary of Delaware’s first settlement, by the Dutch, known as Zwaanendael, located alongside the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.

Inside you’ll find more artifacts and information about the H.M.S. DeBraak – including a scale model – along with clothing, housewares, weapons, publications, photos and other touchstones to Delaware’s rich maritime, agricultural and political history. It’s an absolutely beautiful building, and just steps away from Lewes’ lovely galleries and restaurants. Learn more at

In Dover, Soaring Tributes to our Military

As a U.S. Air Force veteran I have great appreciation for the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover While some of the attractions documenting the role of aeronautics in military history are also indoors, you can also step outside to view more than 30 aircraft developed for all types of missions. 

Right now, in addition to having some fun in an aircraft simulator, you can learn about airlifts of personnel and humanitarian and military supplies during the Korean and

Viet Nam Wars and:

  • the American ingenuity that built the Clark Airborne CA-1 Tractor to rapidly clear obstacles so that runways for long-range military craft could be built – in some cases behind enemy lines. 
  • Operation Vittles, conducted three years after the end of WWII in response to Joseph Stalin’s obstruction of land routes to Berlin to blockage the city and restrict post-war efforts to rebuild the country. Using C-47s and other massive cargo and personnel aircraft from the U.S. and Great Britain, the operation delivered nearly 13,000 tons of coal and food to the impoverished city, eventually destroying Russia’s will to cut off the city and building more support for the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), which was founded during the airlift.

In Wilmington, the Delaware Art Museum Engages at Every Turn

An undisputed treasure for anyone seeking cool comfort from the summer sun, the Delaware Art Museum has a collection of more than 12,000 paintings, sculptures, crafts and so much more. It’s all about American art and illustration from the 19th to 21st centuries, and includes a 9-acre Sculpture Garden, the Helen Farr Sloan Library, a children’s learning area, all kinds of classes, and a café and museum store

I’m pleased to emphasize that there are so many things to do at this museum, from enjoying performances, to walking through exhibitions, to all kinds of programs and special events for adults and families. To learn what’s happening in July and August visit