The mission of The Henry L. Ferguson Museum is the collection, preservation and exhibition of items of Pre-History, History and Natural History of Fishers Island and, through its Land Trust, the preservation in perpetuity of undeveloped property in its natural state. It is organized for the education and enjoyment of the Island’s community and visitors and for the protection of habitat for the Island’s flora and fauna.
History of The Henry L. Ferguson Museum
Fishers Island’s Museum was founded in 1960 and named in honor of a man who devoted his entire life to the civic and business affairs of Fishers Island.
Henry L. Ferguson, a son of one of the Island’s primary owners, served as the president of the Fishers Island Farms for more than 40 years, and was involved in many aspects of the Island’s development. His true passions, however, had little to do with business. He was an avid amateur ornithologist who loved to collect and study Fishers Island bird life, and a self-taught archaeologist who spent countless hours scouring the Island for Native American artifacts.
After his death in 1959, a small group of his friends decided that a new institution should be formed to house his extensive collections in these fields. Bishop Henry W. Hobson, a member of that group, wrote of their decision: “The founders felt that Mr. Ferguson’s unique collection of birds should be preserved, and also that the artifacts and relics left on the Island by the Indians, who were its first residents…should be made available to those who live here now. It also seemed fitting that historical material should be gathered and placed where it could be seen and studied by all who are interested in the Island.”
From 1960 to 1972, the Henry L. Ferguson Museum was based in a rented storefront across from today’s Firehouse. As the years passed, the inadequacies of that space became clear to all. In 1972, with the generous support of the Jansen Noyes, Sr. family and the entire community, a new building was erected on the current site of the Museum. For almost 30 years that structure ably housed the Museum’s collections. In 1998, however, the Museum’s board authorized the construction of a new building that would meet exacting professional standards for the storage and display of its growing collections and provide additional space for programs and activities. Led by matching grants given by the late Albert H. Gordon, the entire Fishers Island community joined together to support the project.
In 2000, the 40th anniversary of its founding, the Museum’s board approved the building design submitted by Albert, Righter & Tittmann, Architects, Boston, Mass. The new Museum was completed in time for a grand opening on July 4, 2003 attended by more than 600 people.
Visitors to the Henry L. Ferguson Museum will find three main galleries that feature Fishers Island-related Archaeology (Pre-history), Natural History and History, as well as adjacent annual exhibition space and a reference library. In addition, the Museum holds and maintains a Land Trust with properties located on all sections of the Island, but concentrated around the critical watershed area of Middle Farms Flats and Middle Farms Pond.