How a piece a paper becomes a piece of history

Delaware Supreme Court Judge Henry Ridgely Horsey knew what he was doing when he donated a few documents to the Delaware Public Archives to donate.

The documents he brought in were the letters of famous Delawareans and state court cases.

Important to the history of Delaware, the documents were archived by the Delaware Public Archives.

Rahim Harris | Whetstone

Letters of Delaware politicians

The Delaware Public Archives doesn’t accept just any type of document – only ones that relate to the history of Delaware.

“When you have over 10.5 million documents and 75 million books related to Delaware you have to have a mission statement of what exactly you accept as a archive,” Stephen Marz, the director of the Delaware State Archives.

2500 documents are donated to the Delaware Archives every month and 30,000 per year.

People often try to donate documents not necessarily valuable to the Delaware Public Archives.

“Sometimes people will come in with a book related to the history of Virginia or documents of their uncle who served in the military in Pennsylvania,” Marz said.

The Delaware Public Archives will, however, “triage” the documents to another Archives building that relates to that specific document where it will hold value.

Virginia and Pennsylvania are the two states that the documents usually get triaged to.

“We never just say ‘No’ or ‘We don’t collect that,’” Marz said, but we say, ‘That’s not a part of our mission.’”

The public archives also holds more than 1 million photographs. The institution organizes them by series and how they relate to each other.

“Our mission statement includes that the archived documents are accessible to all individuals,” Marz said.