A Guide to the Museums of Dover Delaware

Dover, the state of Delaware’s capital and the second-largest city, is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Its museums provide a walk through its history, from its rural beginnings to its growth as the seat of state government. Visitors are transported to a time when people worked the land to eke out a living in a new country. Because they have historic significance in the national landscape, many of the museums are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Air Mobility Command Museum

Once used as a rocket development airfield, the Air Mobility Command Museum is part of the United States Air Force’s field museum systems. Previously known as Hanger 1301 at Dover Army Airfield, the restored landmark is part of the National Register of History Places. The museum features military airlifts and crafts, including restored cargo and tanker aircraft. In addition to its aircraft and historic exhibits, it has a summer camp for children interested in aeronautics and the air force. The Air Mobility Command Museum offers free admission.

Biggs Museum of American Art

Established in 1993, the Sewell C. Biggs Museum of American Art Museum features fine and decorative arts of Delaware artists, dating back to the 1700s. The museum’s permanent collection consists of works from the Delmarva Peninsula. Pieces included in its 18 galleries consist of paintings, furniture made by early American cabinetmakers, toys, and local silver collections. The museum offers educational programs for children, summer camps, and internships. The Biggs Museum of American Art is free and open to the public.  

Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village

Located south of Delaware State University in Dover, the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village preserves the farming heritage of the state. The museum features exhibits about farming technologies that help people work the land and feed the community, as well as historic art pieces. A living aspect of the museum is Loockerman Landing Village. The living exhibit replicates a farming village of the 1890s and includes a farmhouse with a set table, a schoolhouse, a church and a general store.

Johnson Victrola Museum

The Johnson Victrola Museum honors Eldridge Reeves Johnson, the Delaware native who founded the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901. The museum features items such as phonographs, recordings, trademarks, paintings and other memorabilia. It offers a fascinating look at the early development of the sound recording industry. The museum also has special events on the first Saturday of the month. The Johnson Victrola Museum is free and open to the public, but it does accept donations. Groups can schedule a tour of the museum at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center.

The Old State House Museum

The Old State House is located in Delaware’s first permanent capitol building, which was completed in 1791. The building once housed both state and county government. The first floor of the museum features an 18th-century courtroom. The second floor once served as the chambers for the state legislature. Walking though Old State House Museum is like taking footsteps into the history of the United States. Like the Johnson Victrola Museum, it has special first Saturday of the month events and is free and opened to the public. Groups can schedule a tour of the museum at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center.

Woodburn, The Governor’s House

Woodburn, also called the Governor’s House, has served as the official residence of Delaware’s governor since 1965 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house dates back to 1798 and represents architecture common of Delaware’s homes during the 18th century. The Governor’s House contains the Wall of First Ladies, which features the first ladies who occupied the home and contributed to its décor. Admission to the house is free. Tours must be scheduled 24 hours in advance.

Visiting one of Dover’s museums is like stepping in the footsteps of history, from colonial times to significant moments in modern history. Many of the museums invite people to visit them free of charge, giving all a chance to experience the people and events that created the city and the state. Many of the structures stood at the city’s early beginnings.