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Delaware Historical Society unveils new piece of 'Collecting Wilmington' exhibition

Delaware Public Media

Another piece of the Delaware Historical Society’s five part exhibition "Collecting Wilmington: Place, Perspective & Memory” is unveiled this week.

The exhibit highlights items from the recently acquired Paul Preston Davis Collection.  It consists of one man's work to emass more than 10,000 pieces of rare business trade cards, photography, African Americana, rare print materials, and commemorative objects over four decades. 

And the Delaware Historical Society’s Chief Curator Leigh Rifenburg says this second part of the exhibition focuses on print materials.

“That includes everything from rare books, some of which were printed by Delaware’s earliest known printer, James Adams, to, as print culture starts to shift and change in the mid-19th century, everything from blank books that Wilmington’s newer businesses were using to keep their records to autograph books – things that were sort of collectively authored by young women and men," said Rifenburg.

The exhibition largely spotlights materials from the 19th century. But Rifenburg says James Adams' story is an necessary exception.

“This is the one time that we do veer away from our sort of strict 19th century focus. The reason we do that is to cover the story of James Adams, who was Delaware’s earliest printer," said Rifenburg.  "And we have to do that in order to lay the ground work for what comes later on as we start to see how print and print demand in Wilmington changes."

Rifenberg says this part of the exhibition also features items known as “friendship albums” which young men and women asked friends to sign like modern school yearbooks.  And the exhibit includes only the sixth known African American “friendship album” in a public collection.

Three more pieces of  “Collecting Wilmington” are to come next year, in January, March and May.

The Delaware Historical Society hosts a companion program Thursday night to mark the unveiling of this piece of the exhibition. Book restore Domonique Alesi will discuss preserving both rare books and older ones people may have in their homes.  That’s at 6 p.m. at the Delaware History Museum in Wilmington.  Registraion is required and can be done here.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for nearly three decades.
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