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In 1905, a Division of Public Records was created to preserve, classify, and catalogue all public records of historical value through the year 1800 not currently being used by State and County officials. Six members of patriotic and historical societies were appointed by the Governor to direct the Division for a term of two years. They had immediate charge and were responsible for all records consigned to their custody and were empowered to make and enforce all rules and regulations regarding the care of such records. The Division was required to submit bi-annual reports to the Governor detailing the condition of material presently in their care. Recommendations for preservation plans for all public records throughout Delaware were also to be included. Department heads of any State or County government office were required to provide access to all books, records, and papers for examination by the Division upon its request.1

In 1911, the Public Archives Commission was created to replace the Division of Public Records. The new commission was to have charge of all books, records, documents, and papers of historic or public interest through the year 1850 not currently used by, but housed in, state and county offices. As before, they were empowered to make and enforce all rules and regulations concerning the preservation, classification, and cataloguing of such documents. Records deemed important enough by the commission were to be published and sold as a reference source through the state librarian. The commission was to report bi-ennially to the governor on its activities and request legislation essential for the furtherance of its work. The commission was empowered to hire employees to sort, catalogue, index, arrange, and carry out all its duties.2 In 1913, municipal records were also placed under the jurisdiction of the commission.3 Beginning in 1919, five hundred dollars was appropriated annually to enable the Public Archives Commission to purchase, with approval of the governor, important state papers.4

In 1935, legislation passed requiring the Public Archives Commission to preserve and care for any and all public records that be 75 years old or older of historical value in its possession. The commission itself was comprised of six members, appointed by the governor for a term of four years. The state Hall of Records was placed under their care and control as a place to store, classify, and catalogue for reference the valuable records under their jurisdiction.5 No officer of any court, department, board, commission, or agency of the state or any county or incorporated municipality therein, could destroy, sell, or otherwise dispose of any public records in his care, custody, or control without having first advised the Public Archives Commission of their nature and obtained its written consent. “Public Record” was then defined as any written or printed book, document, paper, map, or plan, which was the property of any court, department, board, commission, or agency of the state or of any county or incorporated municipality therein, on which any entry was made or was required to be made by law, or which any employee of the state, county, or incorporated municipality had received or was required to receive for recording of filing.6 All records of any department, board, commission, or agency terminating its operation were to be transferred to the custody of the Public Archives Commission.7

In 1939, the State Building Commission assigned the Public Archives Commission certain room to occupy in the new state Hall of Records in Dover. However, the building was not ready for occupancy until early 1939. That same year, the commission was also given the authority to make photographic reproductions of records in their custody.8 In 1939, they were given the responsibility for obtaining a copy of all plans for future state buildings. Plans were to be filed and catalogued for reference in the Hall of Records.9 In 1943 a law was passed reiterating the requirement that state agencies confer with the archives commission before disposing of any records. As part of this duty the commission was responsible for reviewing the originals, determining the standard of quality of any photographs, photocopies, or microphotographs made the record made of the records, and making the decision for the final disposition or destruction of the originals.10 In addition, the Public Archives Commission was given responsibility for developing a standard of quality for the books, paper, and ink used in generating public records and for supplying this information to the holders of these records.11 In 1959, a law was passed requiring the commission to develop and implement a public records administration program for the retention and transfer of semi-current records to records centers. In addition, the commission was to institute a centralized microfilming program for the copying of the records of state agencies at cost.12

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In 1937, the Public Archives Commission was also empowered to determine and select historically interesting sites and erect suitable monuments, tablets, or makers inscribed with the events being commemorated. The commission was responsible for the care and repair of such monuments.13

The Delaware State Museum came into existence in 1949 when 50,000 dollars was appropriated to the Public Archives Commission for the purchase of land adjoining a site housing two buildings. Part of the funds were to be used for the restoration and renovation of these buildings, already in their possession, to be used as the museum and administration building.14 In 1934 it became law that any objects of historical or archaeological value or interest found on state owned aboriginal sites must be deposited for permanent preservation in the Archaeological Museum of the University of Delaware or in any reputable historical institution.15 In 1951, the University of Delaware and the Delaware State Museum became the two main repositories of such artifacts.16 Also in 1951, in an attempt to prevent any further loss of our national heritage or culture, the Public Archives Commission was empowered to survey, examine, select for preservation, acquire, repair, restore, operate, maintain and make available for public visitation any historic buildings, sites, or objects that it deemed worthy of preservation.17 Ten thousand dollars in appropriated funds was given to the Public Archives Commission in 1961 for the control and maintenance of the Fort Christina Monument celebrating the first permanent settlement of Europeans, by the Swedes in 1638.18 Twenty five thousand dollars was appropriated in 1963 for the relocation and restoration of a building known as Sign of the Buck Tavern.19 The Old State House was designated a historic site in 1964 and was transferred to the Public Archives Commission for restoration.20 In 1966, $55,000 was appropriated for the purchase and restoration of the Old Robinson House and the Swedish Block House; $222,000 in 1965 for Buena Vista and Woodburn; and $45,000 in 1967 for Prince Georges Chapel.21 In 1970 the Public Archives Commission was abolished and its duties and powers were transferred to the newly created Division of Archives and Cultural Affairs within the Department of State.22 By Executive Order No. 54, signed May 25, 1971, Governor Peterson changed the name from Division of Archives and Cultural Affairs to the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. For a description of the new department see RG 1325.

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1 D.L. 1905, ch. 77.

2 D.L. 1911, ch. 82.

3 D.L. 1913, ch. 100.

4 D.L. 1919, ch. 63.

5 D.L. 1935, ch. 105.

6 41 D.L. 1937, ch. 92.

7 41 D.L. 1937, ch. 93.

8 42 D.L. 1939, ch. 96.

9 D.L. 1939, ch. 95.

10 D.L. 1943, ch. 74.

11 D.L. 1943, ch. 75.

12 D.L. 1959, ch. 86.

13 41 D.L. 1937, ch. 94.

14 D.L. 1949, ch. 47.

15 D.L. 1934, ch. 11

16 D.L. 1951, ch. 219.

17 D.L. 1951, ch. 265.

18 D.L. 1961, ch. 256.

19 D.L. 1963, ch. 127.

20 D.L. 1964, ch. 237.

21 D.L. 1966, ch. 415; D.L. 1965, ch. 115; D.L. 1967, ch. 62.

22 D.L. 1970, ch. 579.

mm/March 14, 1988; March 22, 1988; April 22, 1988; December 30, 1988