Event digs into local history on Oct. 28

The Town of Bethany Beach Cultural and Historic Affairs Committee, in partnership with the Ocean View Historical Society, will kick off their second-season cultural event calendar this week with “Archaeological Digs at Avery’s Rest and Bear Trap Dunes” on Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. at Bethany Beach Town Hall.

Mary Van Scoyoc, educator and president of the Bear Trap Dunes Historical Society, will discuss the Bear Trap Dunes archaeological exhibit. Van Scoyoc said that, as a resident of Bear Trap, she was interested to hear that there was an archeological dig at Bear Trap while developers were still in the early stages of site work, before building actually began.

“They found out a great deal about the agriculture and history of this area,” she said of archaeologists who removed the items found from the soon-to-be construction site and studied them in Virginia. “The artifacts were brought from Virginia to Delaware by the Bear Trap Historical Society and, because we felt the need to share them with people, they are displayed at the clubhouse at Bear Trap Dunes.”

Van Scoyoc said the whole thrust of presentations made on the subject is sharing the area’s history with the public.

“You have these digs that give you this information; but unless you exhibit it in some way, they remain in boxes for reference or resource – but the general public doesn’t know about it. When we exhibit and display them, we tell their story.”

The artifacts at Bear Trap were dedicated and presented to the community in 2004.

Van Scoyoc said the group’s presentations often have to concentrate on a specific time period at the side, so as not to overwhelm listeners. This week’s presentation will concentrate on fragmented pieces from the late 1800s.

“Our work is not finished,” noted Van Scoyoc of the group’s research. “There is a lot that’s there in small pieces. And you put in all together and there is a story to be told.”

“There’s lot of talk today about ‘renewable resources,’” she continued. “Well, these are not renewable resources. Once they are gone, they are gone. We are trying to save something worth saving and telling people about it. There is no way to renew it.”

Dr. Dan Griffith, who is familiar with the Bear Trap dig, will talk on Oct. 28 about another local dig – at Avery’s Rest in Lewes – and will talk about what actually happens on a dig. Van Scoyoc will concentrate more on what happens after that state of archeology and what it can teach people about the period in history. The joint presentation is expected to last about 45 minutes, and then both will be available for questions.

In addition to the Bear Trap Dunes historical group, the Ocean View Historical Society is now tending to the larger history of the town, which predates Bethany Beach by 12 years as an incorporated town and existed as a community since colonial times.

As a stepping stone on the path to creating a historical district within the town, OVHS members are now aiming to convert the old “Shores House,” at 39 Central Avenue, into a museum of rotating exhibits.

To truly showcase the town’s history will take time and effort to get the house up to par, and the OVHS thus has a series of fundraising events coming up. The first is set for Nov. 8, at the Dunes at Bear Trap. They will hold a sock hop and silent auction from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets cost $10. For more information on the sock hop, contact Felice Arnold at (302) 539-9174, Mary VanScoyoc at (302) 537-7783 or JoAnne Weber at (302) 539-1636.

Since 2005, the Bethany Beach Cultural and Historic Affairs Committee has been sponsoring cultural events during the fall and winter. Their programs are typically held on Tuesday evenings in town hall. All the programs are free and the public is welcome. Light refreshments are served.

“Archaeological Digs at Avery’s Rest and Bear Trap Dunes” will kick off the 2008-2009 series on Tuesday, Oct. 28. The series will run through April 2009. Other presentations in the coming months will feature: information on the Kalmar Nyckel, “Delaware’s Goodwill Ship,” on Jan. 27, 2009; the new film “The Heart and Soul of Sussex County,” on Feb. 24; Don Sharp, “Songs of Love,” on March 31; and local historical writer Michael Morgan’s “Are We there Yet?” on April 28, 2009.