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And the Band Played on: Dover’s Johnson Victrola Museum Will Again Share its Musical Treasures


For Immediate Release
Friday, May 6, 2011
Christopher Portante
(302) 739-4111

 

Governor Markell and the Department of State Announce the Johnson Victrola Museum’s Reopening This Saturday, May 7th

(DOVER, DE) – Beginning on May 7, the Johnson Victrola Museum in Dover will reopen to the public on a regular basis thanks to the determination and creativity of Governor Jack Markell and the Department of State, who are doing so with little-to-no added cost to Delaware taxpayers. Operated by the Department of State’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the museum utilizes authentic phonograph machines, recordings, trademarks, objects and paintings to tell the story of Delaware’s native son, Eldridge Reeves Johnson, who founded the Victor Talking Machine Company and was a pioneer in the development of the sound-recording industry.

The Johnson Victrola Museum had been operating on a significantly reduced schedule since August 2009 due to reductions in the state budget resulting from the nationwide economic recession that began in late 2008. But beginning this Saturday, the museum, located at 375 S. New Street in Dover, will resume a full operating schedule in which it will be open for public visitation from Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., plus additional hours on selected holidays throughout the year.

“Two years ago, in an effort to resolve an unparalleled budget shortfall, I very reluctantly recommended the closure of three of our state-owned museums which were seeing declining visitation numbers,” said Governor Jack Markell. “It has always been my intention to reopen these buildings to the public as soon as was fiscally responsible and to consider new ways to preserve the historic structures while better integrating them into the life of the local community.”

Two of the closed buildings – the Delaware Archaeology Museum and the Museum of Small Town Life – were revived last year as the new home of the Children’s Theatre of Dover and Kent County, a flourishing local arts organization that directly involves youth in the theater arts. The Johnson Victrola Museum, the last of the buildings to fully reopen to the public, will be returning to its original mission, but will now be doing so with a predominantly volunteer staff.

In order to extend operating hours at the Johnson Victrola Museum and expand outreach to Delawareans and visitors alike, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs initiated a recruitment campaign in March 2011 to attract and train a select cadre of volunteers who would assist existing interpretive staff in operating the museum at little-to-no additional cost to the State. Nearly 20 volunteers – retirees and working professionals with an interest in music and the sound-recording industry – have been recruited and trained to serve as museum docents, providing invaluable assistance for a variety of functions including greeting and engaging the public, selecting music from the museum’s library and operating authentic Victor machines.

In addition to expanding visitation opportunities at the museum, Division staff members also have been working to develop new programming ideas including a lecture series and various children’ s activities. For more information, please visit history.delaware.gov.

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