Museum Chronology: The First 50 Years
1912- c. 1920s H.L. Ferguson collects bird specimens on Fishers Island.
1912- c. 1950s H.L. Ferguson collects Native American artifacts on Fishers Island working in association with Harold J. Baker, Blair Williams, William Shirley Fulton and others.
1935 The Heye Foundation NYC publishes H.L. Ferguson’s monograph, “Archeological Exploration of Fishers Island, New York.”
1959 Feb. 23 – H.L. Ferguson dies at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, New London, Conn.
1960 July 29 – Committee forms for the purpose of establishing a permanent repository for the bird specimen and Native American artifact collections of the late Henry L. Ferguson; decision made to take five year lease in lower level of Mrs. Gladys Baker’s home on Equestrian Ave. in order to house the new “Henry L. Ferguson Museum” (HLFM).
1960 Aug. 29 – W. S. Fulton elected Museum’s first president; H. Lee Ferguson, Jr. appointed first curator; nine member Board is established.
1960-1985 David Parsons, of Peabody Museum, Yale University, serves as primary taxidermist for HLFM.
1961 Museum obtains temporary certificate of incorporation from New York State.
1961 Aug. 27 – Bishop Henry W. Hobson conducts dedication service for the new Museum.
1963 Mrs. H.L. Ferguson is Museum’s first attendant.
1964 Dec. 24 – H. Lee Ferguson, Jr. is elected Museum’s second president and continues to serve as curator.
1965 HLFM renews five-year lease for space in Baker home on Equestrian Ave.; Regents of the University of the State of New York issue Absolute Charter for the Museum.
1965 Aug. 2 – H. Lee Ferguson, Jr. proposes to HLFM Board that vacant land be obtained as a sanctuary under auspices of the Museum; Board embraces this new “progressive course.”
1965 Oct. – H. Lee Ferguson, Jr. dies.
1966 Charles B. Ferguson is elected curator and Edwin H. Horning assistant curator. HLFM Board researches properties on both the east and west ends of F.I. as possible sites for bird sanctuary and memorial for H. Lee Ferguson, Jr. before deciding on a 3.2 acre west end parcel (current Sanctuary site). Land for sanctuary is purchased from Fishers Island Utility Co. for $500.
1966 Aug. 30 – Curator reports 152 species in Bird Collection (including 63 added by the late Lee Ferguson). HLFM Board wholeheartedly approves establishing a Fishers Island Historical Collection to be added to the Museum’s existing collections.
1967 Jan. Charles B. Ferguson organizes an Island-wide appeal for historical photographs, memorabilia and ephemera. Donated items form the core of the new History Collection.
1967 Aug. 4 George de F. Lord elected Museum’s third president.
1967 Aug. 19 Bishop Henry W. Hobson conducts dedication ceremony for new H. Lee Ferguson, Jr. Wildlife Sanctuary.
1968 HLFM Board acknowledges pressing need for more display space; Charles B. Ferguson meets with F.I. Library Board to discuss possibility of an addition to the Library to house the Museum’s growing collections; Old Fire House also proposed as possible Museum site.
1969 July – With no available museum space, Red Barn Gallery hosts exhibit of selections from Museum’s Historical Collection.
1969 Aug. 17 – Dedication ceremony held in Sanctuary for “Heron” sculpture donated by artist, Mrs. Jane Canfield.
1970 Edwin H. Horning is appointed Curator.
1970 HLFM Board again debates merits of buying Old Fire House for use as Museum versus erecting new building on Sanctuary property. Pre-fabricated designs, including log cabins, are actively considered for the latter site.
1971 Bishop Henry Hobson elected Museum’s fourth president. The HLFM receives gift from Jansen Noyes, Sr. to construct and maintain a new museum, given in memory of his late wife, Agnes Blancke Noyes. Board authorizes Building Committee to proceed with plans. Mr. William Faulkner, contractor, is hired to design and build a new museum.
1971 Mrs. Katherine Horning becomes Museum Attendant.
1972 Sept. 9– Dedication service held for completed Museum.
1973 Four birch trees planted in Sanctuary in memory of Kenyon Boocock, Lily Cushing Boyd, H. Lee Ferguson, Jr., and Eileen B. Robins.
1974 Marnie Ferguson Briggs begins work organizing and accessioning archaeological collection. Mrs. Carol Gallaher donates Osprey sculpture in memory of her late husband, Dr. William H. Gallaher.
1975 Aug. 28 – The first major exhibition of Fishers Island historical items held over Labor Day Weekend with over 500 people attending.
1978 Erard A. “Matty” Matthiessen and his son Peter donate an 8-acre property on Island Pond as a sanctuary and memorial for Betty Matthiessen. Charles B. Ferguson becomes the Museum’s fifth president.
1980 Aug. 31– Bishop Hobson, president emeritus, dedicates new History Room addition to Museum (current Museum library room).
1981 Sept. 6 – Board member Robert J. Miller proposes seeking the donation to the Museum of contiguous parcels of land in Middle Farms area initiating the concept of an expanding land trust.
1985 First Museum newsletter published.
1985 June – Dr. Robert Funk, the New York State archaeologist, and Dr. John Pfeiffer, president of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut, invited to Fishers Island for preliminary exploration of island archaeological sites.
1986 Land Trust consists of six parcels totaling 52.23 acres.
1986-1996 Drs. Funk and Pfeiffer conduct series of professional archaeological “digs” at Island sites assisted by numerous Island volunteers and other professionals.
1989 Sept. 17 – Official state visit to North Dumpling Island led by Museum President Charles B. Ferguson. He is declared Fishers Island’s “Dumplomat for Life.”
1991 Land Trust consists of nine sites comprising approximately 60 acres.
1991 July – New archaeology wing opens.
1994 May 28 – Dedication ceremony for Matty Matthiessen Wildlife Sanctuary is held at Middle Farms Flats.
1997 Albert H. Gordon and his son Dan Gordon offer to fund new Library for HLFM. Albert H. Gordon subsequently expands proposal to fund major capital improvements for HLFM.
1998-1999 Albert, Righter & Tittmann, Architects, prepare several alternative plans for additions to Museum varying from minor changes to total razing of the old structure.
2000 May 28 – Board votes unanimously to accept “Plan B” for new building with only the History Room addition left standing from old Museum.
2000-2003 Osprey Campaign raises funds for new Museum building and endowment. Albert H. Gordon leads effort with series of generous matching grants. Jane Stanley hired to run Osprey Campaign and coordinate numerous volunteers. Serena Furman of A Space Design plans and designs the interior exhibit space for the new Museum, in close association with collection consultant and museum planner Valarie Kinkade of Museum and Collector Resource, and interior architectural coordinator Allie Raridon. Volunteer curators reinterpret the HLFM collections for the new space: Elizabeth H. Cook, Archaeology; Pierce Rafferty, History; Carey Matthiessen, Ed Horning, Penni Sharp, and Charles B. Ferguson, Natural History; Jeff Feehan, Geology. Peter Brady of New England Aquarium fabricates four marine dioramas, conceived by Carey Matthiessen with murals by Charles B. Ferguson.
2001 A.B. & J. Noyes Foundation donates bronze “Osprey” sculpture by artist Walter Matia.
2003 July 4 – Grand opening for new Henry L. Ferguson Museum building, designed by Albert, Righter & Tittmann, built by Z&S Contracting, Inc.
2003 Pierce Rafferty becomes Museum Coordinator.
2003 Penni Sharp is elected the sixth president of the HLFM and Charles B. Ferguson becomes president emeritus.
2004 Aug. 7 Auction Party held at Fishers Island Club to benefit the HLFM.
2004 Pierce Rafferty becomes director of the HLFM.
2005 Family of the late Smith C. Vaughan endows speakers fund on natural history themes.
2007 Fishers Island Utility Co. donates historical deeds, maps and records to Museum.
2008 Museum expands children’s programming with Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center and Children’s Museum of Southeastern Conn.
2009 June 26 – Dedication of memorial tree and naming of the Museum’s Natural History Gallery for Edwin H. Horning (1919 – 2008).
2009 Dec. 31 – More than 325 acres permanently protected in HLFM Land Trust either by outright donation or conservation easement.
2010 Spring – Audrey Blackburn from FI School teaches “Young Explorer” series.
2010 May 6 – HLFM & FI School sponsor and produce first Venture Smith Day.
2010 July 3 – 50th Anniversary Party & Exhibit opening.
2012 March – Osprey Cam is established overlooking nest on main road east of Driving Range at Middle Farms Flats.