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New Hagley collection preserves Gov. du Pont records

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Pete du Pont Hagley Museum & Library

This photo from Gov. Pete du Pont’s second inauguration in 1981 is among the records digitzed by Hagley. | PHOTO COURTESY OF HAGLEY MUSEUM & LIBRARY

WILMINGTON – The legacy of the late Gov. Pierre S. “Pete” du Pont IV, who led Delaware throughout a transformative period in the 1980s that produced the modern economy and government the state enjoys today, will be further protected in a new partnership with Hagley Museum and Library.

Unlike other official gubernatorial record collections held by the Delaware Public Archives in Dover, the du Pont collection of personal and political items will be held by the nonprofit museum that honors his family’s legacy.

The 235 acres on the bank of the Brandywine Creek in Alapocas is the site of the gunpowder works founded in 1802 by E. I. du Pont, the great-great-great grandfather of Gov. du Pont. Today, the site includes restored mills, a workers’ community, and the ancestral home and gardens of the du Pont family.

The late governor’s collection will join a research library at Hagley that already contains individual papers, DuPont company records, Americana, historical pieces related to the growth of industrialism, and other donated pieces. The library’s Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society organizes and administers the collections for scholars and produces periodic public exhibits, including one recently on patent history.

Hagley’s Director of Library Services Erik Rau said he considers the medium-sized collection of items to be of “pretty high value” considering its importance to state history and tracking one of the few presidential campaigns by a Delawarean.

“This is what Pete du Pont himself thought was valuable to collect and to keep close as he navigated his career,” Rau told Delaware Business Times.

A portion of those records have already been digitized for public access at hagley.com/pdpont. They include his State of the State addresses, university commencement speeches, and remarks to rotary clubs, trade groups and conferences. Hours of video also document his 1988 presidential campaign stops in New Hampshire, his primary debates and TV commercials. His post-public service career is also covered with copies of op-ed columns and blogs written on economic and political issues to newspapers and websites across the country, and TV appearances on talk shows.

The donation of the records was made in partnership with the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation (PDFF), which was established in 2003 to honor Gov. du Pont’s accomplishments, create enthusiasm for innovation and reduce the barriers to private enterprise.

“We are honored to work with Hagley to continue my father’s legacy,” Thère du Pont, son of Gov. du Pont and chair of the PDFF, said in a statement. “The initiative provides access to his accomplishments and impact to a wider audience as the foundation celebrates its twentieth anniversary, culminating in the highly anticipated annual Pete du Pont Freedom Award, which honors my father this September.”

Rau said that more of the du Pont collection could be digitized in the future, but that the museum’s policy is not to digitize everything in order to lessen its energy consumption.

“It’s really quite rare to have anything soup-to-nuts digitized,” he explained. “Basically, you’re burning up energy to keep it in the cloud. As we develop our digital archives … we’re trying to be responsible and in how we make all this material available.”

The museum prioritized the conversion of videotapes where degradation is assured, and some photos as well. For anything not digitized, a resource library with finding aid has been made available for scholars to review additional materials, Rau noted.

Du Pont, who died in May 2021, is perhaps best-remembered for spearheading Delaware’s landmark 1981 Financial Center Development Act that convinced many of the nation’s largest banks to move operations to the First State. The law has helped add thousands of jobs in banking and credit operations in the Wilmington area over the past 40 years.

The Republican also ushered in a new era of lasting financial constraint, however, securing the support of a Democratic legislature to create a constitutionally protected Rainy Day Fund, removing politicians from official economic forecasts, and obtaining a AAA credit rating that has held to today.

He also co-founded Leadership Delaware, an intensive and competitive program that catalyzes leaders statewide, and founded Jobs for Delaware Graduates, a workforce preparation program for high school students, which has paved the way for a nationally replicated model: Jobs for America’s Graduates.

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