03/05/14 7:00am
03/05/2014 7:00 AM
The Suffolk County Historical Society. (File photo by News-Review)

The Suffolk County Historical Society. (File photo by News-Review)

The Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead is hosting a Tea and Talk event next Thursday, March 13, at 1 p.m. titled “Amazing Women and How They Gained the Vote.”

Guest speakers include representatives from the American Association of University Women. The group is expected to present PowerPoint slideshow and discuss aspects of the women’s suffragist movement.

Finger sandwiches, tea and sweets served. Tickets cost $15. For more information, call 631-727-2881.

12/11/13 7:00pm
12/11/2013 7:00 PM

FILE PHOTO | The Suffolk County Historical Society will offer stipends to local history organizations. 

The Suffolk County Historical Society announced Wednesday it will begin offering stipends of up to $500 for local history organizations to help finance the cost of future exhibitions, publications and special projects.

Funds for the stipends, which the Suffolk County Historical Society is referring to as “History Alive” grants, are being provided by Heart For Art, a non-profit group that selected the Suffolk County Historical Society to administer History Alive incentives.

The grants will be awarded on a rolling basis throughout 2014, the Suffolk County Historical Society said.

“Local history groups do so much with so little,” said Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Suffolk County Historical Society. “It is wonderful that funds are now available to offset costs and to encourage grassroots history groups to take on the new challenges of engaging in community outreach.”

To apply for a stipend, local history groups must include proof of non-profit status and write a one-page proposal describing a new project and its need for funds. Pictures and represtantative brochures, if available, should also be included.

“We have tried to make the application process as simple as possible,” Ms. Curran said. “We want to hear from the local historical societies.”

Applications can be mailed to:

Kathryn M. Curran
Suffolk County Historical Society
300 West Main Street, Riverhead, NY 11901


10/19/13 12:00pm
10/19/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARALLEN KOCH PHOTO | Andy Warhol’s Souper Dress, courtesy of Woodward Gallery, is paired with a 19th-century dress from the historical society’s permanent collection, at the entry to the exhibit.

The Suffolk County Historical Society opened its new exhibit, ‘Back to the Future: Contemporary Artists Consider the Permanent Collection’ Friday evening.

The show features 11 contemporary painters, sculptors and a photographer, all of whom have created new works for this exhibit. The works utilize themes or materials that echo the older, antique nature of most of the items in the society’s permanent collection. As stated in the society’s newsletter: “the exhibit’s featured work focuses not on copying the past but rather considers history as fluid, something that is constantly in dialogue with the present and future.”

The exhibit was curated by Mary Lou Cohalan with assistance by Martina Camarola.

“Exhibiting the antique pieces from our collection alongside these contemporary works is a thought provoking way to view history,” said executive director Kathy Curran. ”It places our objects in another context that brings history to life.”

Funding for the exhibit is provided by Heart for Art and a special grant from the Suffolk County Office of Cultural Affairs to encourage collaborations among nonprofit agencies on Long Island. The exhibit will run through Nov. 23.

The artists in the exhibit are: Cara Barer, Rob Carter, Juddith Condon, Elizabeth Duffy, Katherine Frey, Susan Hoeltzel, Keith Long, Judy Richardson, Donna Sharrett, Karen Shaw and Andy Warhol.

07/20/13 2:30pm
07/20/2013 2:30 PM

SUFFOLK COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY COURTESY PHOTO | The new wing at the Suffolk County Historical Society shown in this photo illustration will be handicap accessible and is expected to cost between $750,000 and $1 million.

The Suffolk County Historical Society, keeper of over 20,000 artifacts from the county’s past, is putting together plans to launch a fundraising campaign to pay for a new addition to its 83-year-old building.

The addition, which will include two handicapped-accessible bathrooms, an elevator and a new orientation space, will comply with regulations set by the Americans with Disabilities Act and make the entire building more accessible to all who wish to visit.

Director Kathy Curran said the board always knew the building needed to be more friendly to people with disabilities or ailments, but the issue became truly apparent during an exhibit this past February.

The show honored Lee Hayes, a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, the country’s first African-American aviators. The opening reception included a conversational interview with Mr. Hayes and a photo exhibit of the airmen. The event generated one of the biggest turnouts the museum has ever had — and as Mr. Hayes is now in his 90s, the exhibit drew a good number of older folk.

“There were a lot of elderly people who attended and we had to help so many up and down the stairs throughout the day,” Ms. Curran explained. “The board members physically saw right in front of their eyes how much we needed this.”

The society is now looking for corporate sponsorships, working on grant writing and asking for donations. The estimated cost of the project is between $750,000 and $1 million, but the exact number won’t be known until the final plans are drawn up and a contractor’s bid is selected. The society hopes to pay for the work outright and expects the plans to be finished by the end of the year.

Riverhead architect Gary Jacquemin was chosen for the project, and the board members picked their favorite from his five different conceptual designs. Mr. Jacquemin is currently working on preliminary plans, and will work on them full-time once more funding is secured.

“I want it [the addition] to signal the rebirth of the activities within the building,” Mr. Jacquemin said. “The historical society has a new director, new board members, some new policies. We also want the addition to reflect the revitalization of downtown Riverhead as a whole.”

Though the existing building dates from 1930, Ms. Curran said museum officials aren’t focused on having the new wing blend in.

“We want to have 21st-century architecture added onto the historic building site,” she said.

“The addition will acknowledge and be respectful of the standing building,” Mr. Jacquemin said. “It will be lightweight and connect to the original building with bridges with skylights above them. We’re not trying to upstage the current building. The board and I are big believers that new buildings should not try to replicate history and that the older building should be the one that remains historic.”

Bob Barauskas, president of the museum’s board of trustees, said that although planning for the addition began a year and a half ago, construction will probably not be completed for another two years.

“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “I came onto the board in 2008 and we’ve just gained so much momentum in the last two years. I’m very excited about the direction we’re going in.”

When asked if the added wing will help increase revenue, Mr. Barauskas responded with a firm, “Of course.”

“People have asked me many times about having handicapped-accessible options,” he said. “There’s just so much that it will offer.”

“We see this as another part of the revitalization of Riverhead as a cultural center,” Ms. Curran added. “With the library, the science museum, the theaters and the aquarium all on our block, we are situated on a little cultural corridor.”


03/25/13 8:00am
03/25/2013 8:00 AM
Museum of Natural History comes to Long Island

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Anthropologist and archeologist Lisa Stevenson of Aquebogue inside the mobile museum which has exhibits on nomadic people: the Native Americans on Long Island, Montana and Mongolia.

The Suffolk County Historical Society’s “Moveable Museum” has officially rolled into action.

Artifacts are now easier than ever for students to access thanks to a unique gift from the Museum of National History.

Suffolk County Historical Society bus from

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A Mongolian vessel made of Yak leather, 600 year-old Indian wampum beads and 1,000 year-old Indian spearheads.

In May 2012, the New York City museum donated a 37-foot-long Winnebago, retrofitted as a 250-square-foot exhibition space. The walk-in exhibit is designed to teach about nomadic cultures.

Now, after nearly one year, a new paint job and other interior upgrades, the mobile museum made its debut last Tuesday in the Sachem School District.

Students from Nokomis Elementary School in Holtsville learned about the Gabra, Mongol, Blackfeet and Algonkian people through interactive exhibits. The displays feature artifacts from both the American Museum of Natural History and the Suffolk County Historical Society.

“It’s like we’re training young Indiana Joneses,” said Kathryn Curran, Suffolk County Historical Society’s executive director. “It is a bridge to communities and neighborhoods.”

The museum also serves as a bridge to Suffolk County’s past. The historical society added the Algonkian exhibit as a way to bring the area’s history to life for students.

The Algonkian people are native to Long Island and the SCHS collection includes nearly 5,000 spearheads, arrows and other artifacts. Many are on display in the mobile museum.

The historical society hired two educators, Lisa Stevenson and Jen Lacey, to manage its rotating exhibits.

Ms. Stevenson, a practicing anthropologist and educator for more than 20 years, has tailored the program toward school-aged children. The curriculum is broken into two parts, a classroom session in school and a hands-on session in the mobile museum. Each meets New York State standards for education.

“It fits the need at the right time,” Ms. Stevenson said. “This is the best possible scenario.”

The historical society is currently seeking sponsors for the Moveable Museum.

Those interested in helping with or participating in the project can call 631-727-2881, ext. 101.


Moveable Museum in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Suffolk County Historical Society’s ‘moveable museum’ made its inaugural trip to an elementary school in Sachem School District last week.

01/21/13 6:00pm
01/21/2013 6:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOCurator David Byer-Tyre and SCHS executive director Kathy Curran holding  Currier and Ives 'Dark Town' series prints.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Curator David Byer-Tyre and Suffolk County Historical Society executive director Kathy Curran holding Currier and Ives’ ‘Dark Town’ series prints.

Visitors who have seen the pieces in the latest exhibit at the Suffolk County Historical Society have been shocked, said executive director Kathy Curran.

OSBORN COLLECTION COURTESY IMAGEA photograph of a Ku Klux Klan funeral procession on Long Island, circa 1930s.

A photograph of a Ku Klux Klan funeral procession on Long Island, circa 1930s.

The items in the exhibit show the history of intolerance toward blacks on Long Island, and detail how organizations like the Ku Klux Klan were active on the East End as recently as 50 years ago.

“It’s just a form of education,” Ms. Curran said in a story that will run in the Jan. 24 paper. “We’re not editing history.”

The exhibit, called “Hidden and Forbidden,” will open on Feb. 1 at the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead with a sister exhibition at East End Arts. Part of the exhibit documents artists attemps to “reclaim” the black identity in the face of racism.

See below to learn more about the history of racism on the East End and get a sneak peek of the pieces in the exhibit.


BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A KKK garment given to the Suffolk County Historical Society by an anonymous donor. The robes are from Long Island.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A KKK garment given to the Suffolk County Historical Society by an anonymous donor. The robes are from Long Island.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Curator David Byer-Tyre with artwork by Bob Carter of Dix Hills. This painting is part of the exhibit to document artists attempting to "reclaim" the black identity in the face of racism.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Curator David Byer-Tyre with artwork by Bob Carter of Dix Hills. This painting is part of the exhibit to document artists attempting to “reclaim” the black identity in the face of racism.

COURTESY PHOTO An 1882 Currier & Ives lithograph from a private collection.

COURTESY PHOTO | An 1882 Currier & Ives lithograph from a private collection.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO A game based on Monopoly which came out in 2003 called "Ghettopoly".

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A game based on Monopoly which came out in 2003 called “Ghettopoly”.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO The Woodhull's of Wading River quilt, made by Charlotte York in 1843 and completed in 1850.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Woodhull’s of Wading River quilt includes this depiction of a slave woman at work made by Charlotte York in 1843. The quilt was completed in 1850.


05/12/12 11:00am
05/12/2012 11:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Supreme Court Judge Peter Fox Cohalan, shown here in his chambers at the state Supreme Court building in Riverhead, was named county historian Tuesday by the Suffolk County Legislature.

During his lifetime, Peter Fox Cohalan has been an attorney, an Islip town supervisor, a Suffolk County executive and a state Supreme Court justice, among other things.

On Tuesday, he picked up a new title.

Judge Cohalan, who will retire at the end of June, was appointed Suffolk County historian by the county Legislature. He will have an office in donated space at the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead, and he will fill the job as an unpaid volunteer.

Mr. Cohalan, who is 74, said at the Legislature’s economic development and energy committee last Wednesday that he’s been an “amateur historian for the last 65 years.”

His interest in history came from his father, who once wrote a book about Aaron Burr, and his grandfather, he said, as well as from his own family history.

“I got started because one of my family members was the first Catholic priest on Long Island back in 1839, and I was very interested in his career,” Mr. Cohalan told the legislative committee last Wednesday.

This relative was the co-founder and second pastor of St. Andrew’s Church in Sag Harbor, back in 1845, he said, adding that St. Andrew’s was the first Catholic church on Long Island.

From there, he said, his interest in local history expanded into other areas. He said he’s currently researching the African-American communities that settled in Sag Harbor in the 19th century, and wants to “play up” the history of various diverse segments of the county’s population.

“We all have a story to tell and I want to help tell those stories,” he said last Wednesday.

County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) liked the choice.

“I could not think of a more appropriate historian for this county, who has great knowledge and love for the history of this county, than Peter Fox Cohalan,” he said Friday.

Mr. Romaine recalled that when he was teacher in Hauppauge in 1971, Mr. Cohalan, then Islip Town supervisor, came to speak to his high school history club.

“Everything comes from something, and I think it is so important that through this position, we can explain to the people of Suffolk County where we came from,” Mr. Cohalan said last Wednesday.

The county historian position has been vacant since 2007, and was last held by Lance Mallamo.