UD Library acquires Iron Hill Oral History Collection
Schoolchildren and their teacher on the steps of Iron Hill School No. 112C, near Newark, Del., early 1920s.
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8:39 a.m., Sept. 1, 2009----The University of Delaware Library Special Collections Department has acquired the Iron Hill Oral History Collection, a gift from the Delaware Academy of Science Iron Hill Museum.

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The project was initiated in 2003 by oral historian Roberta Perkins and Laura Lee, director of the Iron Hill Museum, near Newark, Del., in order to document the history of the Iron Hill School No. 112C, a former African American one-room schoolhouse from the days of segregation.

Arrangements for the gift were made by L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin, librarian in the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library.

The schoolhouse, in operation from 1923 until 1964, is now home to the
Iron Hill Museum, operated by the Delaware Academy of Science. The building is one of 89 rural schools constructed through the philanthropy of Pierre S. du Pont for the community, and one of only a few that are still architecturally intact.

As director of the Iron Hill Museum, Lee met many former alumni who would visit the museum and share their school memories. In order to preserve these stories, she enlisted the help of Perkins and transcriber Marcia Adams to establish an oral history project.

The project received partial funding from the Delaware Academy of Science, Delaware Humanities Forum, and Delaware Heritage Commission. In addition, Rohm & Haas Community Partnership Initiative provided funding for a school outreach program featuring the oral histories.

The Iron Hill oral histories also proved to be an invaluable resource for Lee and Perkins, who contributed a chapter on Newark's African-American history to Histories of Newark, 1758-2008 (Newark, Del.: Wallflowers Press, 2008), a community project commissioned to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Newark's first town charter.

In the course of researching related sources in Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library, Lee became aware of other oral history collections and made the decision to preserve and share the Iron Hill project by donating it to the library.

The Iron Hill Oral History Collection, 2003-2008, consists of 24 interviews recorded on 44 audio-cassettes. The interviews were conducted by Perkins and Lee. The interviewees include 15 Iron Hill School alumni, two parents of alumni, one teacher from Townsend, and three alumni of other du Pont schools in Hockessin and Milton, Del.

Also included is an interview with an alumnus of the Pleasant Valley School, which was for white students and was located less than a mile from Iron Hill, and a Conowingo, Md., alumna. The collection is supplemented by three interviews of long-time residents of the Iron Hill area.

The interviews include but are not limited to discussions of community and school life, relationships between the segregated Newark-area schools, civil rights, transportation issues to and from school, employment, church life, and political vote buying.

Transcripts of the interviews accompany the collection and are available for review. Transcription is an ongoing process and more transcripts will be added to the collection in the near future.

A finding aid to the collection is available at the Special Collections Web page.