Along the banks of Brandywine Creek just outside Wilmington is a treasure not to miss. The Hagley Museum & Library is a renowned research resource to scholars worldwide, but is more of a hidden gem to the general public. And it’s right here in tiny Delaware.
Comparable to any of the most prestigious libraries in the country, the Hagley Museum is unique. It pays special attention to innovation, technology throughout the years and as a bonus, local culture and history.
Hagley, named supposedly by the original owner in the late 1700s as a nod to an English estate of the same name eventually became the homestead of the DuPont family, where five generations once lived. It’s now a museum, a garden and a library open to the public, thanks to the generosity of the DuPont family many years (centuries, actually) later.
Perched high above the Brandywine Creek, it was the perfect place for E.I. DuPont to begin his gunpowder business, which as history now knows became an industrial giant and household name throughout Delaware and beyond.
Willow trees, believe it or not were an abundant source along the Brandywine for the concoction of gunpowder. During the ensuing Revolutionary War, the DuPonts fared well, eventually dominating the market for more than a century for explosives and other chemicals. Today, Dow Chemical remains one of the largest global companies in the world.
Delaware’s romance with the DuPonts runs deep all of these years and generations later. The family’s benevolence permeates the Delaware culture, from museums and estates and botanical gardens open to the public to the Nemours’ children’s hospital, acclaimed worldwide as one of the most sophisticated care centers on the east coast for pediatric care.
Hagley Museum & Library is no exception to the excellence the DuPont families have bestowed on our state. A world-class research library, a living museum with a restored gunpowder mill and a botanical oasis awaits its visitors.
Focusing primarily on business and innovations, the museum is a showcase of American technology and advancement. With more than 65,000 artifacts and documents, Hagley boasts several exhibits – everything from American game culture (think board games and other forms of entertainment) to scientific discoveries such as nylon, cellophane, Kevlar and more!
Home and garden tours are available every day of the week between 10 and 4, with an admission fee of $10 for adults, $8 for seniors over 62 and $6 for children up to age 14. (And check out their calendar of events, to see if you want your visit to coincide with another special activity: “History Hangout Converations”, Hagley’s 5k run along the Brandywine, Invention Convention and more).
There are also plenty of digital exhibits online, such as their collection of technological innovations that have transpired since the late 18th century.
No need to be a scientist to enjoy what Hagley has to offer. Just a bit over an hour from SoDel, it’s a day trip for everyone to appreciate and learn all kinds of historic Delaware culture!