Museum Chronology

W.S. Fulton 1960

William Shirley Fulton posing by archaeology cases in the first Museum, circa 1963. Mr. Fulton, a noted amateur archaeologist, was the Museum’s first president. He founded the Amerind Foundation in 1937, a museum and research facility located in Dragoon, Arizona that holds one of this country’s finest archaeological collections.

Murdock Cottage, circa 1890s.

The rented storefront that once housed the Island’s Post Office and the Polly’s Shop served as the first home of The Henry L. Ferguson Museum from 1960 to 1972.

Mrs. H.L. Ferguson outside the first Museum in July, 1967.

Mrs. Ferguson was an attendant at the Museum from 1963 to 1965.

The second museum.

In 1971, the HLFM received a donation from Jansen Noyes, Sr. that enabled the construction and maintenance of a new Museum, given in memory of his late wife, Agnes Blancke Noyes. Completed in 1972, it was designed and built by Fishers Island contractor William Faulkner. This structure ably held the Museum’s collection for almost thirty years until it was razed in 2001. Only the 1980 History Room addition was left standing.

The third museum construction.

During construction of the new Museum, the HLFM’s collections were stored in the Ferry Annex (former Coast Guard) building and in a storage trailer near the construction site. The Museum staged its 2001 and 2002 exhibits in the annex adjacent to Bagley’s Barn. The second Museum’s History Room, seen still standing in several photos in this series, became the new Museum’s library and office.

Museum President Penelope C. “Penni” Sharp and Museum Director Pierce Rafferty

In March 2012 an Osprey Cam is established overlooking nest on main road east of Driving Range at Middle Farms Flats.

The Museum hosts children’s programs during the summer.

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.

Ornithologist Rob Bierregaard tags one male F.I. osprey, with cell-tower transmitter on May 11, 2013. Bird is named “Edwin” in honor of the late Edwin Horning.

Elizabeth McCance

New Land Trust trail added in Middle Farms Sanctuary, named “Penni’s Path” in honor of the late Penelope C. Sharp in 2016.

A “Virtual only” annual exhibition curated by Hlfm Director Pierce Rafferty opens online: “The Coastal Forts of Eastern Long Island Sound: Abandonment, Ruination and Repurposing” in June 2020.

Land Trust added a wheelchair accessible ramp that leads to a Middle Farms Pond overlook with bench in 2023.

2013 May 11 – Ornithologist Rob Bierregaard tags one male F.I. osprey, with cell-tower transmitter. Bird is named “Edwin” in honor of the late Edwin Horning.

2013 October – HLFM Board hires Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects, Boston, Mass, to create architectural plan for Museum’s second floor.

2014 May 1 – Rob Bierregaard tags second F.I. osprey with transmitter, named “Charlie” in honor of Charles B. “Charlie” Ferguson.

2014 Dec. 14 – Museum President Penelope C. “Penni” Sharp dies.

2014 Dec. 23 – Elizabeth McCance elected new president of the HLFM.

2015 Spring – Mary Linda Strunk hired as Administrative Assistant.

2015 Dec. 19 – Tagged osprey “Charlie” dies in Dominican Republic, likely shot at fish farm while heading to winter home in Columbia, S.A.

2016 April – Tagged osprey “Edwin” dies of unknown causes in Waterford, Conn. after arriving back from wintering over in Brazil’s Amazon region.

2016 Early spring – Second Floor Renovation Project completed.

2016 June 25 – Museum holds ribbon cutting ceremony for the Richard E. Riegel, Jr. Maritime Library, Tower Room on the HLFM’s Second Floor.

2016 – New Land Trust trail added in Middle Farms Sanctuary, named “Penni’s Path” in honor of the late Penelope C. Sharp.

2016 – Land Trust Committee forms consisting of both HLFM board members and non-board members.

2016 June and July – Two Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies graduate students, Martin Becker and Alex Tordorovic-Jones, work on developing Land Trust management plan.

2017 – The Nature Conservancy partners with the HLFM and the F.I. Conservancy to form Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition (FISM).

2018 November – Emily Bodell hired by HLFM as first coordinator of the FISM.

2019 March – Jack Schneider hired as the HLFM’s first Land Trust Stewardship Coordinator.

2019 June 18 – Museum hosts Long Island Sound Study Habitat Restoration & Stewardship Work Group Meeting.

2019 August 12-16 – Museum launches Fishers Island Nature Discovery (FIND) with children’s programs split each morning between classes in the Museum and out in “the field.” FIND is directed by Murray Fisher, assisted by two Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center educator/naturalists and Emily Bodell.

2020 March — Connor Jones hired by HLFM as second coordinator of the FISM replacing Emily Bodell who is bound for graduate school.

2020 April 18 – Museum closes until further notice due to Covid-19 virus, with Land Trust trails remaining open but operating under physical distancing protocols.

2020 June 27 – A “Virtual only” Annual Exhibition opens online: The Coastal Forts of Eastern Long Island Sound.

2020 Fall – Museum establishes an Art Fund to enable the collection of Fishers Island related art.

2021 May 23 – Scientists from the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) begin two-year biodiversity inventory and ecological mapping of Land Trust properties.

2021 July 1 – Museum reopens with safety protocols in place. Both adult lectures and children’s programs are in person at the Museum.

2022 April – Connor Jones resigns as management coordinator for FISM.

2022 August – Hannah Vagts hired as management coordinator for FISM.

2022 November – Valarie Kinkade of Museum and Collector Resource coordinates major expansion of HLFM’s storage capacity; new equipment installed that enables recording and remote monitoring of temperature and humidity levels in storage areas.

2023 May – Land Trust Steward Jack Schneider works with Adam Murray’s Fishers Island School conservation class and Race Rock Garden Co. to create a wheelchair accessible ramp that leads to a Middle Farms Pond overlook with bench.

2023 June – Museum’s Land Trust acquires 15.58-acre parcel from FIDCO with a major contribution from the Town of Southold’s “Community Development Fund” and 12 generous donors; FIDCO donates a 5.4-acre parcel abutting Middle Farms Pond near Osprey Cam.

2023 July – NYNHP publishes Fishers Island Biodiversity: Rare Species and Natural Communities of the Henry L. Ferguson Museum Land Trust along with multiple appendices.