The Coolest Field Trip You’ll Ever Take

When an athletic, thrill-seeking millionaire builds a mansion hideaway on the outskirts of the city, stocking it with a technologically advanced fleet of cars, boats and airplanes along with trophies of his exploits, there’s a good chance he’s either Batman or a Vanderbilt. Meet William K. Vanderbilt II circa 1910.

William K. Vanderbilt II
1903 photograph of William K. Vanderbilt II by Theodore C. Marceau. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Just after the turn of the last century, William (or Willie K.) was heir to the Vanderbilt fortune and all the pressures that went with it. Reeling from a public relations disaster in Lake Success, he diverted his attention to Centerport and created Eagle’s Nest, an idyllic private retreat with space for a public museum housing his collection of marine specimens and cultural artifacts.

On today’s episode we speak with Stephanie Gress, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, the institution formed when Vanderbilt willed his estate be perpetuated as a museum.

Our discussion uncovers Willie K.’s scientific pursuits, his connections to the American Museum of Natural History, golfing with Sam Snead and the probabilities of Vanderbilts in space. We also talk about the challenges of preserving such a unique museum collection and how generations of school kids on Long Island have thrilled to the only Egyptian mummy between Brooklyn and Great Britain.

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A Walk Through Time With the Shinnecock

David Martine, Cholena Smith, Chris Kretz, Connie Currie (l to r)
David Martine, Cholena Smith, Chris Kretz, Connie Currie (l to r)

To honor Native American Heritage month here at the Project, we’ve got two interviews lined up regarding the Shinnecock Nation in Southanmpton. Connie and I sat down with David Bunn Martine (Director and Curator) and Cholena Smith (Education and Program Manager) from the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum to discuss the history of the tribe and the operations of the Museum. Located at 100 Montauk Highway in Southampton, this is the only Native American-owned and -operated museum on Long Island.

Today in Part 1 you’ll hear about the origins and development of the Museum including their efforts to propagate the Shinnecock language. We also discuss the Shinnecock Powwow, the persistent challenge of stereotypes and, as a bonus, I finally get to use my knowledge of popular 19th-century German fiction writers.

Thanks also to Eileen Dugan, Education Coordinator at the Museum, for arranging these interviews.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in two weeks in which David will tell us more about Shinnecock history and the Native American experience in this country.

Stream in the player above or download audio.

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