Part 4: 1992-2002: When Donald Schluter retired in 1994 as Director, membership to the Society was at an all-time high with more than 300 individuals and 50 businesses. William O’Brien, a retired art teacher, became Director and planned to connect history with contemporary culture to reinvigorate the museum experience. His plan was put into action with the development of “The Baymen of Northport” exhibit.
The Baymen plaque was put in place by the Northport Historical Society in 1995 to coincide with its exhibit, "The Baymen of Northport."
Together with George Doll, Bob Spong and Otto Hess, O’Brien mounted an exhibit of photographs, artifacts, and stories, linking the baymen of the past to those of the present. Over 300 people attended the opening ceremony which was held on the Village dock. After the keynote speech given by Justice Kenneth Rohl, a former Bayman himself, the crowd walked to the museum to unveil the exhibit. The Baymen’s exhibit was one of the most successful exhibits to this day.
In 1996, Barbara Wells Fitzgerald became the Director. One of the first things she did was to update the 10-year-old permanent exhibit. To address a wider audience, she included the history of surrounding areas East Northport, Asharoken, Eaton’s Neck and Crab Meadow. The downstairs meeting room was repurposed as a “hands-on” children’s museum. Also in 1996, at the suggestion of Board President H. Harris Murray, the Society applied and received listings on the New York state and national registers of historic places for the museum’s building.
Throughout the 90s, the Society and Museum hosted an impressive slate of events, exhibit openings, and educational programs. The Main Street walking tours given by Dan Sheehan, house and garden tours, Do-Art, Antique shows, and appraisal days, were just some of them. Much care was given to the building as well. The bathroom and Museum Shop were renovated, and a climate control system was installed. The grounds were spruced up, a sprinkler system installed, and a beautiful garden area was created by Kumhui Newton. Peggy Mudge made a donation in her husband’s honor to create a research library and grants provided funds for a new computer, printer and scanner.
In 1999, the museum mounted an exhibit, “100 Years on the Water,” celebrating the anniversary of the Northport Yacht Club. 1999 also marked an important milestone for the museum. It was the 25th anniversary of the awarding of the old Carnegie Library to the Society for its permanent home. In celebration, the Society held its first annual benefit gala at the Northport Yacht Club which was a huge success. Another highlight from 1999 was the development of our own website: www.Northporthistorical.org. which was spearheaded by Board President Michael Newton.
The new millennium got off to a bumpy start due to a series of directors that came and went and other staff changes, however the commitment to the mission remained strong. An endowment made from Marilyn Kane’s family helped to purchase archival materials for the further preservation of our ever-growing collection. The second annual benefit gala was held, its theme: Sailing into the 21st Century.
To be continued next month: 2002-2012 – New Century, New Milestones