Small Museum of the Month: Jane and Little Mitchell Center
This month’s Small Museum of the Month is the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage. The Mitchell Center is physically located in the Delaware History Museum, which is operated by the Delaware Historical Society. Dr. Angela Winand is the head of the center. The website for the Mitchell Center explains that its purpose “is to collect, preserve, research and present for public enrichment the history and heritage of Delaware’s African Americans”. The new, permanent exhibition called Journey to Freedom touches on the topics of “slavery and resistance, faith and freedom, pursuit of equality and expressions of selfhood and community”.
How does the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center engage visitors about these topics in ways that are educational and engaging? Intermixed between wall text, images and objects, visitors will find interactive displays. Some of these interactive displays are as simple but engaging as the reproduction of legal documents that are laminated then hole punched and placed on a binder ring. Similar exhibits allow visitors to experience other important documents and objects from the Society’s collections.
Another interactive display to help visitors understand the conditions of slavery and the choice of staying or running away, is excellently displayed through the “Stay, Wait, Run” interactive. Visitors, after reading about the Underground Railroad and William Still’s 1872 book on the topic, are prompted to pick up sturdy cards with a real-life scenario of an enslaved person in Delaware. They are asked to then place a yellow plastic chip into one of three collection tubes based on if they would “stay,” “wait,” or “run”. There are eight different scenarios to consider. The tubes are clear so museum visitors can see how others voted and gain a general consensus of how others felt about the scenarios. For smaller museums or those with limited space, this same interactive could be duplicated with mason jars with slits on the lids using multicolored construction paper and a rolodex.