The Middletown Historical Society has expanded their museum by adding two exhibits.
One is about life 100 years ago in Middletown and about those who served in World War I. The other exhibit is about different races and ethnicities living together over the years in the Middletown area.
Both opened on Aug. 19—the same day as the Peach Festival--at the historical society’s museum at 216 N. Broad Street, Middletown.
The exhibit about life a century ago in the M.O.T. area includes a real uniform and matching hat belonging to a U.S. soldier in World War I. The Delaware Military Museum loaned the uniform to the Middletown museum.
Many other parts of the Middletown new exhibits are hands-on where the public can touch and pretend to do things common in World War I times.
Alison Matsen, museum coordinator, recently demonstrated how the public can interact with the exhibit’s features. She sat in an antique chair and knitted socks as the Red Cross asked in World War I times. The public is invited to do the same as Matsen did.
Members of the public also can roll up bleached long skinny sheets like they are being used for bandages like in World War I.
Also, there’s an old desk where the public can register for the military as those did during World War I. The registration sheet has the same format as in World War I, but it has been copied recently so residents can write on it like they are registering.
Children can also get into the act. The exhibit features a coloring station with sheets of paper with themes from the time period. Children can color the sheet while their parents visit the museum.
Also in the exhibit is a list of soldiers from Middletown, Townsend, and Odessa who served in World War I. There are some pictures of them, too.
There are many pictures and placards on the wall and memorabilia under glass which describe life 100 years ago in Middletown and surrounding area, whether it be in the war or at home.
One placard lists the four names of those who died in World I from the Middletown area. They are the same names which are on the monument at Cochran Square in downtown Middletown.
One the second floor of the museum, there’s the second new exhibit, called Living Together, which focuses on racial and ethnic groups who lived in Middletown. “We are talking about white and blacks, slaves and slave holders” Matsen said.
Museum patrons can look at the map of the underground railroad as it went along houses and properties in the M.O.T. region. The properties run on Main Street in Odessa, Route 299, Silver Lake Road, Noxontown Road, and Summit Bridge Road.
Inside one of the glass exhibits is picture of a Russian Jewish man who came to America in the 1800s. In 1921, he became wealthy enough to build a home in Middletown. Next to his picture is his accounting book, which he presumably used to keep track of his transaction since he was a salesman.
There’s also a 1850 ledger from H.N. Willitus detailing his transactions. It shows he bought a female slave for $365, but agreed she could buy her freedom for $1 a week. But it’s not clear if she paid all the money.
The Middletown Historical Society has other exhibits which opened years ago in the Academy Building. On the first floor, there are paintings and pictures of people who lived in the M.O.T. region.
On the second floor, there’s a children’s “Please touch room” where children can play with old fashion toys and there’s a Downton Abbey exhibit which shows what life was like in Middletown in the 1920s.
And, since the museum is located in a former academy, a room has been set aside with desks like an old schoolhouse would have.
The historical society plans to open another exhibit at the same museum in October which will be called the “Escape Room.” Museum patrons will be locked in a room and given clues on how to get out.
The museum always has free admission. It’s regularly open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the first and third Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on the third Wednesday. All other times are by appointment. Call Matsen at (302) 378-8265 or (302) 740-5544 to schedule a time. The museum is closed on major holidays.