‘Preserving Eagle’s Nest’: Vanderbilt Premieres New Exhibition
Why should we care about historic houses that have been turned into museums? How can these inert structures speak to us – and how, a century or two later, might their histories and the lives of their famous inhabitants be relevant to contemporary life, and to museum visitors?
These are a few of the questions raised by Preserving Eagle’s Nest: Labor and the Aesthetics of Stasis, the newest exhibition at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, which opens to the public on Sunday, September 18, in the Lancaster Gallery. The presentation explores the preservation of Eagle’s Nest, the summer estate of William K. Vanderbilt II (1878-1944) one of the heirs to a powerful railroad and shipping empire.
Paul Rubery, the Vanderbilt Museum’s Director of Curatorial Affairs, created the exhibition after considering the purpose and future of historic house museums and examining hundreds of artifacts and documents, as well as the century-old buildings under his care.
Preserving Eagle’s Nest explores the architectural significance of the estate and considers the skill, labor, expertise, and care invested in maintaining the appearance of the property—and emphasizes the processes and outcomes of preservation initiatives.
“If historic house museums hope to communicate their value to contemporary society,” Rubery said, “they must develop a new language to describe their activities. Specifically, these institutions must articulate how, in remaining static, the buildings under their stewardship convey something essential about the historical process. To do so, they must direct their attention to the basic unit of historical experience and understanding: time.”
Questions about temporality present conceptual issues for the interpretation of house museums. In the mid-twentieth century, many private estates were converted into museums when social historians popularized a historiographic method centered on the role places played in forming the biographies of “great individuals,” Rubery said.
These scholars believed that, if the public was presented with the life of a person at a specific moment in time, they would form an intimate connection with the past in a way that supports the development of character and virtue. Today, our fondness for explaining historic events through biography has largely waned—and with that, the school of social history—leaving behind countless mummified homes, farmsteads, and other structures that no longer serve their intended purpose.
Preserving Eagle’s Nest explores this theme through artifacts and documents. It examines the historic house museum’s language of time by concentrating on the broken, damaged, and decayed aspects of the Vanderbilt Museum’s collections and grounds. The exhibit also examines the time and labor invested in preserving the historic appearance of the Museum and finds value in the multigenerational care and expertise given to the project.
By focusing on the tension that develops between degradation and preservation, Preserving Eagle’s Nest directs our collective interest toward questions of temporality, effort, and historical stasis, Rubery said.
This exhibition is made possible by the generosity of Eric and Laura Gerde, Milcon Construction Corporation, Farrell Fritz, P.C.; People’s United Bank; PFM Asset Management; and H2M Architects + Engineers.
Ecologist Carl Safina: What Animal Cultures Can Teach Humans
Carl Safina, a MacArthur “genius” prize-wining ecologist and author, will speak on the dynamics of animal intelligence and the cultural lives of animals on Thursday, October 13, at 7:00 pm in the Vanderbilt’s Reichert Planetarium.
Safina’s lecture will draw heavily from his years of field research and from his acclaimed 2020 book Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace (Picador). In that book, Safina explores how new research in the fields of animal intelligence and emotion transforms our understanding of animal behavior and inspires us to think about the dynamics of non-human cultures.
“Culture,” Safina explains, “is information that flows socially and can be learned, retained, and shared.” Building on reports from his travels with leading wildlife and conservation biologists, his lecture will focus on three special species—sperm whales, scarlet macaws, and chimpanzees—with cultural habits that are as thought-provoking as they are remarkable.
As Safina guides us through these encounters with the inner- and social lives of animals, we might take several lessons from our non-human neighbors. In doing so, the hope is that we are compelled to become more considerate stewards of the natural world. Most importantly, we will be moved to ask, “who are our traveling companions in the journey of this planet—who are we here with?”
Becoming Wild was named a best book of the year by The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, and Christian Science Monitor. It also won the 2021 Nautilus Book Award in the category of animals and nature.
Carl Safina’s work has been recognized with MacArthur, Pew, and Guggenheim Fellowships, and his writing has won Orion, Lannan, and National Academies literary awards and the John Burroughs, James Beard, and George Rabb medals. He has a Ph.D. in ecology from Rutgers University.
Safina is the inaugural holder of the endowed chair for nature and humanity at Stony Brook University, where he co-chairs the steering committee of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and is the founding president of the not-for-profit Safina Center. He hosted the 10-part PBS series Saving the Ocean.
Lecture and Book Launch: ‘The Leak’
Robert P. Crease Examines Scientific Trust and Political Fallout
Crease’s lecture will serve as a book launch for his latest publication, The Leak: Politics, Activists, and Loss of Trust at Brookhaven National Laboratory (The MIT Press), co-authored with former BNL Director Peter D. Bond. In The Leak, Crease reconstructs the events of 1997, when scientists discovered a small leak of radioactive water near the laboratory’s research reactor. He details how, despite posing no threat to public safety, the discovery sparked public outrage; drew the attention of politicians, activists, actors, and supermodels; and threatened the existence of the national laboratory.
Crease’s narrative retelling of “the leak’s” fallout offers a timely reflection on the gaps that still exist between social, political, and media understandings of science and, in doing so, examines how our institutions can build better trust with the publics they serve.
The lecture will take place at 7:00 pm in the Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium. Tickets are available online at the Museum’s website. Members have FREE admission.
Copies of The Leak will be available for pre-order through the Museum’s gift shop.
Robert P. Crease is the Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, where he has taught for more than three decades. His research in phenomenology, the philosophy of science, and aesthetics has influenced countless scholars and helped bridge the gap between the arts and sciences. He has published, edited, or translated 16 books, including The Workshop and the World: What Ten Thinkers Can Teach Us about Science and Authority and World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement. In 2021, Crease received the William Thomson, Lord Kelvin Medal and Prize for his contributions in explaining scientific ideas to humanities scholars.
Raptor Day: Meet Live, Rescued Birds Up Close
Raptor Day: The Bald Eagles of Centerport will be presented at the Vanderbilt on Saturday, October 8, in identical sessions – at 10:00 and 11:00 am and 1:00 and 3:00 pm. The event, which will benefit WINORR – Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation – and the Vanderbilt Museum will be held rain or shine in the Vanderbilt Celebration Tent. The event also will support Museum programs.
This one-of-a-kind event will feature a live exhibit of rescued raptors, with a bald eagle, golden eagle, owls, hawks, and more. WINORR houses the birds and rehabilitates them. This is an opportunity for visitors of all ages to get an up-close look at these magnificent birds that no longer can be released into the wild. Bring your camera!
The event includes activities for children, vendors, raffles, and the showing throughout the day of a short movie about the Bald Eagles of Centerport.
Tickets: adults $20, children 12 and under $10. Members: adults $10, children $5. All tickets include general admission to the Museum.Purchase Tickets
Vanderbilt Annual ‘Morning for Families’
The Vanderbilt will present its annual A Morning for Families event on Saturday, October 15, from 9:00, am to 12:00 pm. Admission is free, but advance registration is required. The event is exclusively for people with special needs and their families.Free Registration
Spend the morning exploring the collections, grounds, gardens, architecture, and the Reichert Planetarium’s “Open Sky.” Activities include a preserved specimen touch table and crafts.
For more information contact Beth Laxer-Limmer at 631-854-5552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seasonal Fun: ‘Mr. Vanderbilt’s Spooky Science Lab’
Join us for some creepy fun! We’re turning off the lights for a scavenger hunt in the collections galleries and will create jars that can be used in any spooky Halloween display.
Registration is online only. Cost: $20 / $18 for members. For more information, call 631-854-5552.Register
“Kids love exploring the collections in the dark with flashlights,” said Beth Laxer-Limmer, associate director of education. “They notice things they might usually miss – like a hawk’s hooked beak or the spines on a sea urchin.”
Walk & Talk Tours: Architectural Details, Famous Ironwork
Come for an intriguing walking tour of the Vanderbilt Estate with knowledgeable Museum educators. Learn about the history of the Eagle’s Nest estate; Warren & Wetmore’s design and exterior architectural details of the 24-room Spanish Revival mansion; and the striking ironwork of Samuel Yellin, considered the greatest iron artisan of the early 20th century.
These Walk and Talk Tours, created by the Vanderbilt Education Department will be offered at 1:00 pm on Friday, September 30, and Saturday, October 22.
Tickets, which include general admission, are available for purchase only at the door: Adults $16, seniors/students $15, children under 12 $13, and Members FREE.
Beth Laxer-Limmer, associate director of education, said, “The grounds are beautiful at this time of year and the walking tour is a perfect way to be introduced to the history of the estate and collections. There is an abundance of beauty in the eclectic architecture and the unique details that reflect William Vanderbilt’s interests.”
William K. Vanderbilt II (1878-1944) spent summers at his Eagle’s Nest estate and mansion on Northport Bay between 1910 and 1944. He and his wife, Rosamond, hosted intimate gatherings and entertained well-known guests, such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Pierre Cartier, Conde Nast, Charles Lindbergh, and the Tiffanys. Eagle’s Nest is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Celebrate your family, a loved one, a special anniversary, or other milestones and memories by sponsoring a commemorative brick with a custom engraving. Your donation will help the Vanderbilt Museum to bring outstanding science, history, and art education to more than 25,000 students annually.
Your message will be displayed permanently in one of the brick walkways around the Vanderbilt Mansion and Terrace, or on the grounds of the beautiful waterfront Estate.
For more information, call Debbie Stacel at 631-854-5579, or email: email@example.com