The Smithsonian Institution has designated the Hagley Museum and Library as Delaware’s first ever Smithsonian affiliate.
The two organizations have a long history of working together and the designation formalizes that partnership while opening the opportunity for both museums and other affiliates to share their collections.
As a Smithsonian affiliate Hagley can now incorporate Smithsonian resources into its exhibits – mainly centered around the early days of DuPont Company and its production of gunpowder – showcasing the history of American innovation and entrepreneurship.
The affiliate partnership also includes sharing educational programs, personnel and expertise between the two establishments and other museums in the affiliate network, what Hagley executive director David Cole describes as a “two-way street” that will take Hagley’s vast repository materials on business and industrial history and innovation well beyond the First State.
“We’re certainly known regionally in Delaware and the Philadelphia area as a wonderful place to come and learn about the history of innovation,” Cole said. “But we really would love to cultivate a national audience for what we think is a national-caliber collection.”
The Smithsonian Institution – comprised of over 19 museums and 134 million artifacts that it shares with its more than 190 affiliates in over 40 states, Puerto Rico and Panama – agrees with Cole’s assessment of Hagley’s materials.
Director of Smithsonian Affiliations Harold Closter even took it a step further proclaiming that Hagley far exceeds the rigorous requirements to become an affiliate – requirements that ensure their partners maintain the highest standards in the museum profession.
“Especially on a site like this, which is a historic site,” Closter said. “Obviously you’re dealing with nature, you’re not just a building with exhibits and objects, so that is a higher challenge which they have just done a marvelous job of managing.”
One of those outdoor exhibits – an 1890s water-powered turbine that was painstakingly restored to its 19th century condition over the past year – will open to the public on Saturday June 7th.
The turbine – discovered three years ago buried along the banks of the Brandywine River – is now in working order and will provide a maximum power of 43 horsepower to the museum’s machine shop.
Joan Hoge-North, director of museum services at Hagley says the turbine exhibit will be part of the lineup of displays on the evolution of water power – from the water wheel up to modern turbines.
“Its something that our visitors will be able to walk up to, look in to and see any time they visit,” Hoge-North said, adding that it could have a role in the museum’s special tours and activities, thanks to an exciting feature of its operation.
“One of the coolest things is once you lift the sluice gate and the water rushes down like Niagra Falls, and it fills this huge 18 foot tank – and all of a sudden everything starts spinning,” added Hoge-North. “So we hope to create that opportunity for visitors in the future.”