University of Delaware Library receives Rockwood Archives
The Archives of the Rockwood Museum have been received by the University of Delaware Library as a gift from New Castle County.
John A. H. Sweeney
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8:07 a.m., Sept. 24, 2009----The University of Delaware Library announces that the Archives of the Rockwood Museum have been received as a gift from New Castle County. At the same time, the Friends of Rockwood, a support group for the Museum, has established the John Sweeney Fellowship in the Library's Special Collections Department to assist in processing the Archives.

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The Rockwood Museum is a Victorian house museum located on an English-style country estate in Wilmington, Del. The Gothic Revival mansion, with a conservatory and furnishings from the 19th and 20th centuries, is surrounded by extensive Gardenesque grounds. The property is owned by New Castle County.

Spanning the 17th century until the late 1970s, the Rockwood Archives document generations of the Shipley, Bringhurst, Hargrave and Sellers families, all of whom resided in the home. An extensive collection of correspondence, photographs, albums, diaries, deeds, business records, ephemera and other items documents the families' personal lives and businesses, the Civil War, travels abroad, Delaware social and cultural life, and the building of Rockwood and its later restoration. Architectural, horticultural and decorative arts materials particularly noted for trans-Atlantic and late Victorian coverage make this collection an extraordinary resource for interdisciplinary studies at the University of Delaware and in collaboration with other cultural institutions in the region.

Chris Coons, New Castle County executive, observed, “We are pleased that the Archives of the Rockwood Museum have come to the University of Delaware Library where they can be used for scholarly research by many students.”

“We are very excited about this transfer of the Rockwood Archives to the University of Delaware Library where this exceptional collection will be getting the care and online archival description that will enable the collection to take its rightful place in the broader scope of Delaware history,” said Philip Nord, Rockwood Museum director.

Susan Brynteson, vice provost and May Morris Director of Libraries, commented, “The University of Delaware Library is delighted that the Archives of the Rockwood Museum will be in the Library where, after processing, the collection will be a valuable resource for faculty and students in history, material culture studies, museum studies, and a host of other disciplines. An online finding aid to the collection will provide worldwide access to help scholars and the general public learn about the Rockwood Archives.”

The Friends of Rockwood, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching, supporting and preserving the Rockwood Museum, transferred ownership of the Archives to New Castle County in 2002. The John Sweeney Fellowship honors John A. H. Sweeney (1908-1995), one of the first class of Winterthur Fellows and adviser for Henry Francis du Pont, founder of Winterthur Museum and Country Estate. A strong advocate for the University of Delaware Library, Mr. Sweeney was a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Delaware Library Associates for many years, serving as vice president and secretary. The Sweeney Fellowship helps provide a graduate assistantship for Matthew Davis, a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, who is processing the Rockwood Archives. Davis has experience working in two house museums -- the Barton House Museum (Bloomsburg, Pa.) and the Joseph Priestley House Museum (Northumberland, Pa.) -- and acted as archival research assistant to a historian at Susquehanna University. A second graduate student, Amanda Dadonna, is also assisting with the processing of the Archives. Her internship in Special Collections is supported by the Center for Material Culture Studies, the Department of History and Museum Studies Program, reflecting the wide interdisciplinary nature of this valuable new resource in the Library.

“It is particularly fitting that this first Sweeney Fellow is helping to make the Archives accessible,” noted Deborah Andrews, director, Center for Material Culture Studies. “The generosity of the Friends of Rockwood will ultimately enable Delaware students to use the Rockwood Archives in their research in such fields as art conservation, decorative arts, literature, history, architectural history, book history, costume, travel and material culture studies.”

“It is pleasing to honor the memory of John Sweeney through this Fellowship, particularly since its recipient will begin the task of processing the Rockwood Archives at the University of Delaware Library,” said Chris Hutchinson, president of the Friends of Rockwood. Hutchinson, other members of the Board of Directors of the Friends of Rockwood, and Mark Samuels Lasner, University of Delaware Library senior research fellow, facilitated arrangements for the Fellowship gift.