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History Center’s new online exhibit captures island traditions: hunting, clam fishing and fishing over the years

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This summer, the Shelter Island Historical Society received the Young Scholar Award from the Robert DL Gardiner Foundation, offered to historical societies on Long Island, allowing them to select a student intern to complete 100 hours of service.

Shelter Island School sophomore Leonardo Dougherty was selected and recently completed a new online exhibit: “The DNA of Shelter Island”.

He worked closely with the archivist of the Historical Society, Rachel Lucas; coordinator of the Lucas Deupree collections; and Executive Director Nanette Lawrenson. The exhibit includes photographs, artifacts and audio clips, all selected by Mr. Dougherty, to illustrate island activities that have been enjoyed by generations, many of which have centered on water.

Classic old postcards, many with personal messages, recall the days when the island’s famous hotels, the Prospect and the Manhanset House, invited families to spend a pleasant summer stay.

He also documented with photographs many artefacts donated to the Society by Island families, including duck decoys and clam rakes, which evoke timeless activities of the Island such as hunting, fishing for clams and fishing.

Leonardo not only enjoyed access to the center vault, but was able to explore the Havens House attic from 1743 as well as the field barn for items to include in the story.

An oral history by Islander Scudder Griffing tells of his family’s tradition of using a rowboat to hunt ducks and muskrats. Poignant details emerge in the way Leonardo organized the collection, such as a pot shape of eel believed to have belonged to Abraham Schaible, a firefighter who helped put out the fire at the Prospect Hotel.

He met his wife in Goat Hill sledding, we’re told, and they’ve been together for 60 years.

Leonardo divided his time between his work at the History Center, an average of 15 hours per week, and his outdoor lifeguard job at the Beach Club.

Previously, he had learning opportunities at his old school, Hayground, spending time working with professional photographers and with chefs in restaurant kitchens. He has his eye on a future in design, perhaps architecture, as he reflects on directions in college and beyond.

Although he said what he valued most about the project was the access it gave him to Company records and artifacts, he was happy to have been able to see how the construction went. .

“There were models and books that I was able to browse,” he said, speaking of the History Center designed by architect William Pedersen, which was built to encapsulate Havens House and provide extensive exhibition space and safe storage space.

With the start of the school year, he will be focusing on his studies again, as well as cross country, track and field and hopefully baseball in the spring. “I wish we had fewer COVID restrictions,” he said, “but we’ll do what we have to do. “

This online exhibit will bring great pleasure to anyone who may not yet be comfortable venturing into indoor spaces, including the History Center, due to concerns about COVID. For all who watch it, at shelterislandhistorical.org/dnaofshelterisland.html, it promises an opportunity to revisit and reflect on what generations of Islanders have enjoyed to date.


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