"Preservation50" gets jump started at the Milford Museum in preparation for 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act in 2016.
Milford residents interested in preservation are joining with others across the state who are getting the ball rolling toward marking the 50th anniversary of the passing of the National Historic Preservation Act next year.
“Preservation50” is a big celebration that will make a push to build recognition for historic properties, cities and people from up and down the state.
A group of around 25 gathered at the Milford Museum on Sept. 14 to discuss plans for next year’s celebration.
Kim Burdick, Advisor Emeritus for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was one of the speakers at the event and is eager to mark the National Historic Preservation Act’s 50th birthday.
“We’re getting everybody’s input, how they want to celebrate and what they want to do, what they’re working on, just to make it inclusive,” Burdick said. “The most important thing is the networking and getting people thinking about preservation and sharing their successes and also their sob stories.
“Back 50 years ago you could do whatever you wanted with a historic property. Thanks to these laws, that is no longer the case.”
At the meeting, the group discussed creating a bigger online presence to bring attention to historic preservation in Delaware, as well as what kinds of landmarks should be celebrated next year and in what ways.
All the talk excited Claudia Leister, the executive director of the Milford Museum, and got her wondering what her town could offer the Preservation50 group.
“Milford is quite an old town,” Leister. “It has some wonderful old houses and some wonderful history. We try to share that here at the museum.
“I think it’s a great idea having a statewide push for preservation, then you get one person who tells another person, who tells another person and then it comes together with the awareness.”
Bev Laing, a historian for the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, said that remembering the history of the preservation laws will be important for the future.
“We’re celebrating that the law was passed 50 years ago, but the true importance is what will be 50 years from now?” Laing said. “There’s a real interest in getting the families and children interested now so when they see something going into neglect they take action to save it.”
Laing said she has personal experience in seeing the benefits of preservation, having worked at the old State House in Dover for 25 years.
“We would not have that gem of a building in Delaware if it were not for the Preservation Act, which enabled the funds to be gathered to save that building and restore it,” she said. “Now it’s used as a tourist destination [and] as a classroom for every child [in the state] free of charge, and that’s all due to the preservation of that building in our capital in Dover.”
As for Milford, Leister said the town is just getting started with the recent creation of the Milford Preservation Group. It’s important that the city celebrate its heritage, she said.
It wasn’t always like that.
“When I started here with the museum I’d walk up and down Walnut Street and people would say, ‘Where’s there a Milford Museum?,’” Leister said. “And I don’t get that anymore. My goal has been to raise the visibility of the museum, and that’s working, and it’s getting people coming back and coming in.”
Preservation50 is hoping to experience similar success as it gathers steam for its milestone.