The Middletown Historical Society invites the public to view two new exhibits at the society’s museum, “World War II through the Lens of William D. Willis: A Photographic Exhibit” and “Reflections of Middletown.”
The Willis exhibit honors the military service of the Delaware native who worked as a photographic technician with the Army Air Force during World War II. The collection from which the exhibit was selected contains 600 photographs from all theaters of the war, which he created at his base in England. The exhibit will also highlight contributions of Middletown and Delaware to the war effort.
This exhibit was researched and designed by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, and will open for the Peach Festival on Saturday, Aug.20. The exhibit will be at the museum through August 2017.
The second exhibit, “Reflections of Middletown,” is a rotating display of photographs and other images of men, women and children who lived in the community. It encompasses faces, occupations, pastimes and religions of the people, and is a cross section of rich and poor, old and young, and famous and forgotten people who were participants in Middletown’s story.
“It was people who made Middletown’s amazing three-centuries-old history,” said historical society Acting President Dave Matsen. “We hope visitors will leave with a new and greater appreciation of the rich tapestry that reflects our history.”
According to historical society Chairman Linda Harting, the exhibit will feature nearly 250 years of Middletown images, especially those from the era of photography to today.
“Until the 1850s, there were few painters to capture people’s images, but after that, Middletown enjoyed the new technology of photography to bring us the faces of those who lived here, and we have hundreds to share,” said Harting.
The historical society members are hoping the Middletown community will share their own photos, which can be donated or scanned and included in the exhibit.
“We have a large Middletown image collection, as you can see in Shauna McVey’s wonderful ‘Images of America’ book on Middletown, but we know that there are thousands more out there that the public could share,” Harting said.
The society is also interested in current and identified images.
“Today’s Middletown residents are tomorrow’s history,” she said. “People often forget that history is not just what happened 100 years ago. It is happening now, and it is our job to collect and understand them for posterity. So photographs taken today are also very valuable to us, and we want them.”
That is why the society is also preparing an area of the exhibit for “selfies,” which they hope to receive copies of for the future. An additional feature of the exhibit will show images of unidentified Middletown people, which the society hopes the public will help identify.
Because there are so many images to show, the museum plans to rotate some images about every six months. The two-year exhibit is scheduled to last through August 2018.
Anyone interested in donating or sharing images of past and present Middletown residents should call society Historian George Contant at 302-674-0727 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Museum address and hours
The Middletown Historical Society Museum is located in the Old Academy Building, 216 N. Broad St., Middletown.
Except on holidays, the museum is open Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the first and third Saturdays of each month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the third Wednesday of each month from 12 to 4 p.m.