“Housing Our History” at the Ferguson Museum

by Jane Ahrens

Housing Our History poster. (Click the image to see a larger version.)

HL Ferguson Museum Director Pierce Rafferty toured two anonymous “boaters” round the museum on August 26, 2017. To Pierce’s surprise he received a thank you note from one of them, Bill Hosley, who then revealed that he hosts the Facebook page  www.facebook.com/HousingOurHistory/

Mr. Hosley wrote that he was a curator at the Wadsworth Atheneum at the time our Charlie Ferguson was directing the New Britain Museum. Mr. Hosley frequently visits and gives presentations on small museums. His review of the Ferguson Museum is extraordinarily positive and reinforces that our Island museum is truly a gem.

At right is a poster picture that promotes his lecture. He shared with Pierce that it will be amended to include our Museum.

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Housing Our History at the Ferguson Museum
Review by William Hosley

Having visited 1000+/- mostly smallmuseums I sometimes wonder if there is anything more to learn by seeing one more. You bet there is!

The Henry L. Ferguson Museum on Fishers Island, New York sprints to the top of a list of bests. It’s the only museum on Fishers Island – an island like no other. Owned entirely by the Winthrop family from the 1640s-1860s, it remained undivided and agriculture until the 1870s when it had a brief fling as a resort hotel mecca. In 1889, the Ferguson brothers bought most of the island and shifted its focus away from tourism, toward private residential development – a kind of gated community – designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.. Golf course architect Seth Raynor was hired by Fishers Island Club (1920s) and you get the picture. There are no hotels or B&B’s on Fishers Island -barely a restaurant. Its exclusive and Henry Ferguson, son of the founders, was a kind of genius at natural history and history, who built the core collection at the museum that bears his name.

We stumbled in and poked around with director Pierce Rafferty a fountain of knowledge and interpretive panache. Everything about it reminded me why deep historical knowledge and scholarship matter. Photography, natural history, ASTONISHING native American collection and assorted goodies – everything from and about the place. The labels are well written and deeply informed by scholarship – so I posted a couple to show what good labeling looks like. Its rarely this good. Finally, I LOVE this mission statement – and cannot overstate how wonderful it is when a place-based museum integrates ALL the elements of stewardship the way David K. Leff and I talk about. You may never get there (and that’s fine with Fishers Island which discourages tourism) so have a look. 

Mission Statement: “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.”



From LinkedIn:
“About William Hosley: Curator, museum director, public speaker, project manager, writer, photographer and cultural resource entrepreneur, Bill Hosley has more than 30 years work experience in museums and historic preservation. Former employers and affiliations include the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, Historic Deerfield, Winterthur Museum, Wadsworth Atheneum and, most recently, Connecticut Landmarks and the New Haven Museum where he served as executive director. Hosley founded Historic Hartford, Inc. and was the co-founder of the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Arts & Heritage Action Partnership. Author of five books and dozens of articles, a founding advisor to Connecticut Explored, and contributor to The Hartford Courant’s PLACE, his work has appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers. He has written dozens of successful grant proposals and has harnessed resources to execute projects ranging in cost from hundreds of dollars to more than one million.”

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay. Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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