University of Delaware
David Ames speaks at the John Dickinson Plantation as part of the recent Saturday Symposium.

Saturday Symposium

Alumni, friends enjoy a day focused on Delaware history

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9:48 a.m., Nov. 4, 2011--More than 30 alumni and friends of the University of Delaware braved the rare October snow on Saturday, Oct. 29, to visit historical sites in Dover, Del., and learn from faculty and visiting scholars about Delaware's role in the American Revolution.

The Saturday Symposium featured talks, discussions and museum tours, all focused on John Dickinson, who was known as the "Penman of the Revolution" for his writings and was one of three Delaware signers of the U.S. Constitution. The daylong event was coordinated by the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and presented in partnership with the John Dickinson Plantation and the Old State House, museums operated by the state of Delaware.

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Activities began at the Dickinson Plantation, where the tour included interactions with historic character interpreters, and concluded at the Old State House. The group also stopped at the nearby Biggs Museum of American Art, where lunch was served.

In the audience at the symposium was Jessica Bright, a 2001 graduate with a degree in communication, who called the tours and discussions "a great introduction" to John Dickinson.

"I think the symposium is a great idea," Bright wrote in an email to Matthew Kinservik, interim associate dean for the humanities in CAS. She said she especially appreciated an event that lets alumni stay involved with their alma mater in a different way than the more usual social gatherings or football games.

"For me, personally, it felt great to be back in an 'educational' setting after so long," Bright said. "I miss learning about something that has nothing to do with the daily grind—knowledge for the sake of knowledge."

Among the speakers at the symposium was Jonathan Russ, UD associate professor of history who regularly teaches courses in U.S. and Delaware history; David Ames, professor of public policy and administration, geography and material culture studies, who directs UD's Center for Historic Architecture and Design and teaches courses in historic preservation; and Jane Calvert, associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky and director and chief editor of the John Dickinson Writings Project.

Deb Haskell, a former member of the Delaware Heritage Commission and an active participant in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University, attended the symposium. She praised the interpreters at the Dickinson Plantation and called the Old State House "a wonderful treasure, with its handsome portraits and interesting history."

Overall, Haskell said, "It was a happy and exciting day."

Article by Ann Manser

Photos by Evan Krape

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