The Vanderbilts and Ancient Egypt, Nature Walk, Architecture & Collections Tour

‘The Mummy and the Obelisk’: The Vanderbilts and Ancient Egypt

Roberta Casagrande-Kim, an archaeologist and curator of ancient art, will give a lecture on the Vanderbilt family’s fascination with ancient Egypt – at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum on Thursday, June 20, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm.

Her lecture, The Mummy and the Obelisk: Reflecting on the Vanderbilts’ Captivation for Ancient Egypt, will be presented in the Museum’s Reichert Planetarium.


Purchase Tickets


In nineteenth-century New York, the wealthiest families pursued art collecting as one of the vehicles through which they established social and cultural prominence. Interestingly, Casagrande-Kim said, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the first in the prominent family to distinguish himself for his financial acumen, showed very little interest in this pursuit while his son William Henry, grandson William Kissam, and great-grandson William Kissam II all resorted to art to decorate their newly built mansions.

(At right: Pascal Sebah, Magasin d’antiquités, Cairo, undated, circa 1881. Minneapolis Institute of Art, 82.57.71. Gift of Charles Herman. This antique store in Cairo was typical of those Vanderbilt explored when he sought to purchase a mummy for his museum.)

“Their taste remained eclectic and for the most part untrained, with paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts of different periods and quality taking over their living spaces,” she said. “Whereas antiquities never became a priority for the Vanderbilts, ancient Egyptian works or Egypt-inspired commissions made their way into their collections.”

Casagrande-Kim’s lecture will focus in particular on William Henry’s involvement in the transportation of the so-called Cleopatra Needle to Central Park (where it was installed in 1881), on Alva Vanderbilt’s penchant for Egyptomania, and on William Kissam II’s purchase of a three-thousand-year-old mummy still on display in the Centerport mansion.

“We will examine these objects closely, establish the motives behind these acquisitions and donations, and frame the Vanderbilts’ interest for Egypt within the largest context of wealth and power of the New York of their times,” she said.

Dr. Roberta Casagrande-Kim is the Bernard and Lisa Selz Director of Exhibitions and Gallery Curator at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. She is also an educator and curator at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum.

Casagrande-Kim holds a B.A. in Christian Archaeology from the Università degli Studi di Torino (Italy) and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Roman Art and Archaeology from Columbia University. She is a specialist in Roman funerary practices and beliefs in the afterlife, Late Antique urbanism, and Greco-Roman mapping. She has worked extensively in archaeological excavations in Italy, Israel, and Turkey, and has served as the Assistant Field Director at the Amheida excavations (Egypt) since 2010.

Vanderbilt Museum Summer Benefit

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will hold its annual summer benefit on Saturday, July 13, at the Museum.

The evening will begin with a cocktail reception at 6:00 pm in the Mansion Courtyard. Live music by We May Be Right, a Billy Joel tribute band.

This important event will help support Vanderbilt Museum preservation efforts and STEM education programs.

RSVP by June 21.

Cocktail attire and cobblestone-friendly footwear are recommended.


Purchase Tickets


Tours Explore Vanderbilt Architecture and Collections

Take 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, and visit the marine, natural history, and cultural artifact collections

Created by the Vanderbilt Museum Education Department, the first 2024 tour will be offered on Friday, June 28, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. Others are scheduled for July 27, August  25, September 28, and October 20.

Tickets, which include general admission, are available for purchase ONLY at the door: Adults $16; seniors/students $15; children under 12, $14; and members free.


Purchase Tickets


Beth Laxer-Limmer, Associate Director of Education, said, “The grounds are beautiful during the summer and the walking tour is a perfect way to be introduced to the history of the estate. 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.

Hike the Vanderbilt Estate with a Biologist-Ranger

Join CEED Wildlife Biologist, Ranger Eric Powers, for an interpretive nature walk on the museum grounds – on Tuesday, June 18, from 10:00 to 11:30 am.

“I enjoy taking a slow easy walk through the woods as I look for tracks and listen to bird calls, he said. “I feel that animals often get a little closer when we are appreciating the beauty in nature.”

Please bring water and wear sturdy footwear. Bring binoculars if you have them, and your sense of adventure!

Other Nature Walks are scheduled for August 21, and September 18.

This is an advanced hiking trail with many steep climbs and descents along a variety of mixed terrain with an elevation gain of nearly 300 feet. There will be two opportunities to cut your hike short and head back to the parking lot if you feel you or your party cannot finish the entire loop. The signs will show you the way out.

Ticks are active in the woods all year long when temperatures are above freezing. To avoid ticks, please stay on the trail.

Hikers assume all risks.

Purchase Tickets


Journey Through Space? Step Right This Way.

The Reichert Planetarium – with full-dome video, surround sound, and 197 comfortable new seats – will take you on enthralling, immersive journeys through the Solar System.

On Friday and Saturday nights, you can enjoy two amazing astronomy shows and very popular laser music shows.

The Planetarium offers great daytime programming for children and adults Friday through Sunday

On Friday from 9:00 to 10:00 pm, it’s FREE to observe the night sky in the Observatory (weather permitting).

Show Schedule


Name a New Chair in the Reichert Planetarium

When you name a new chair in the Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium chair, you support innovative planetarium education and entertainment programming.

Observe a milestone, honor a loved one, or name a chair for your family or organization.

Dedicate | Celebrate | Recognize | Memorialize

Your nameplate will remain in place for the life of the seat. (It does not reserve the use of the seat.)

More Details


Give a Unique Gift That Will Last a Lifetime

Looking for a fresh, unique, everlasting gift for a loved one?

Purchase and engrave a brick that will become a permanent part of the Vanderbilt Museum.

Your donation will help the Vanderbilt to bring outstanding science, history, and art education to more than 25,000 students annually.

Your brick will be installed and displayed in your favorite brick walkway around the Vanderbilt Mansion and Terrace, or on the 43-acre grounds of the beautiful waterfront Estate.

For more information, email


Purchase a Brick


‘Laser Taylor Swift’ Extended through September 1

Showings of the Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium‘s wildly popular new show, Laser Taylor Swift, have been extended through September 1. If you were not able to see one of her shows on the Eras tour, Laser Taylor Swift is the next best thing!

With more than 200 million records sold, a shelf full of Grammys, and an army of fans, Taylor Swift is an inspiration for generations. This dynamic show takes her biggest hits and brings them to life in dazzling laser light.

Tickets: $18. (Free for Museum members.)


Purchase Tickets


Setlist: You Need To Calm Down, Love Story, Anti-Hero Exile, Look What You Made Me Do, Willow, Lavender Haze, I Knew You Were Trouble, Blank Space, You Belong With Me, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Shake It Off.

‘Haunting Menagerie’, Museum’s First Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition

Gericroix (Pegasus)
Wendy Klemperer

On Earth Day, April 22, 2023, the Vanderbilt Museum debuted Wendy Klemperer: Wrought Taxonomies, the first exhibition of outdoor sculpture at the historic summer estate of William Kissam Vanderbilt II.

Wendy Klemperer’s sculptures—a haunting assemblage of animal forms that span imaginary, endangered, familiar, and exotic species—celebrate natural history and the nonhuman world through evocative interactions with the surrounding environment.

Using materials salvaged from scrapyards, she composes ecological narratives that respond to the history and collections of Suffolk County’s first public park and museum. Her brilliant use of gestural lines captures the spectator’s attention and invites museumgoers to reflect on the relationship between an interest in animal life and the incessant push of human industry.

Wrought Taxonomies is the inaugural exhibition in the Vanderbilt Museum’s outdoor sculpture program and the institution’s second exhibition of contemporary art focused on the relationship between culture and animals. Visitors will see large pieces visitors as they stroll the grounds of the Vanderbilt, one of the few remaining Long Island Gold Coast mansions. Smaller pieces suspended from trees wait to be discovered along the Vanderbilt’s hiking trail. Other works will be found near garden areas and the Marine Museum.

The Vanderbilt Museum occupies the former Gold Coast mansion and estate of William Kissam Vanderbilt II, the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt and a pioneer of American motorsport. Located in Centerport on the north shore of Long Island, it is renowned for its extensive marine and natural history collections, Spanish revival architecture, and picturesque parklands.

All sculptures are viewable with general admission to the Museum grounds. Educational programs and workshops associated with the themes and content of Wendy Klemperer: Wrought Taxonomies will be offered throughout the exhibition. Special thanks are due to the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, whose generous support made Wrought Taxonomies possible. The exhibition will run through April 2025.

Visitors are encouraged, during these weeks of mild autumn weather, to enjoy a picnic on the grounds.

Vanderbilt Wine Supports Education, Preservation

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum has partnered with Old York Cellars to create a special selection of wines – your purchase will support the Museum’s preservation efforts and education programs.

Eagle’s Nest, the waterfront estate of William K. Vanderbilt II, is the home of the Vanderbilt Museum and Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium.

Help us preserve this vital piece of local and national history. STEM education programs are based on Vanderbilt’s marine, natural history, and cultural artifact collections. Educational planetarium offerings are provided to more than 25,000 schoolchildren each year. Please purchase wine today and support our mission.


Purchase Wine

Related Posts