For over 125 years, the Staten Island Museum has been fostering and sustaining scientific and cultural heritage on Staten Island. Founded in 1881, New York City's only general interest museum explores the arts, natural science, and local history through permanent and changing exhibitions and welcomes over 65,000 adults and school children to a comprehensive array of programs. Located just two blocks from the Ferry Terminal, visitors can embark on a voyage through time in the Staten Island Ferry exhibit, get close to exotic insects, see rocks glow in the dark along with oddities in the Hall of Natural Sciences and experience the life of Staten Island's first inhabitants, the Lenape.
New History Exhibition
“This Was Our Paradise”
Spanish Camp: 1929–Today
October 12- March 2008
Curated by Jim O’Grady and Diane Matyaswith Michael Falco, Photographer
"Every view of the world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life." - Octavio Paz
Flamenco at El Salon, ca. 1920. Collection of Norma Delgado.
The Staten Island Museum opens its new exhibit “This Was Our Paradise” Spanish Camp: 1929–Today on Friday, October 12 with a free public reception from 6-8pm. The exhibit will be on view from October 12, 2007 – March 2008. The story of the unique Staten Island South Shore summer bungalow community: its founding, flourishing and, finally, its end. Oral history, vintage photos, and a poignant photo essay by Photographer Michael Falco.
Spanish Camp, Panorama View, 1998. Photo by Michael Falco.
The exhibit will occur on the tenth anniversary of the demise of one of New York’s most unusual communities. Spanish Camp was an oasis of nature that survived from the 1930s to the late 1990s even as the borough around it succumbed to rapid development. It was a haven for generations of the original founders’ offspring and, later, the working class and new immigrant families who rented and bought bungalows there. In the 1970s, the camp was frequently visited by writer and Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, whose organization owned three bungalows.
The exhibit will feature vintage photos, objects, oral remembrances, and a powerful photo essay by photographer Michael Falco about the camp’s final, heart wrenching year, when dozens of resident families were evicted to make way for a luxury housing development that was never built.
“The exhibit quickly expanded from an art exhibition of documentary photos to include the larger story of the of Spanish-American immigrants,” said Diane Matyas, the museum’s Director of Exhibitions. “We found that the families of original members were eager to share memories of their distinctive community. We received calls, e-mails, items, and/or visits from people all over the tri-state area, not to mention Florida, California, Arizona, and Shanghai, China.”
Founded in 1929 by Spanish immigrants, Spanish Camp was a beachside haven for families escaping their hot and crowded concrete city neighborhoods. They pooled their resources to acquire 17 acres in Annadale and put up canvas tents on platforms that over the years became bungalows. These modest homes lined narrow lanes, were threaded among the trees surrounding a grassy commons or perched on a bluff overlooking Raritan Bay. The “campers” lived in nature, enjoying the pleasures of their tight-knit community: swimming and fishing, building campfires on the beach and, on special occasions, crowding into a covered hall at the center of the camp (El Salon), to attend dances, poetry and concerts that went late into the night.
The exhibit tells the history of Spanish Camp in six sections:
The Founding / Early Days introduces La Sociadad Naturista Hispana, or Spanish Naturopath Society, begun in 1929 in the Spanish neighborhood around 14th Street in Manhattan. It will feature a member payment book, posters advertising events at El Salon, an official book of rules expressing the residents’ desire to give their families a place to live with nature, exercise, eat vegetarian meals, enjoy (sex-segregated) nude sunbathing and the freedom to play and discover the world beyond 14th street.
Halcyon Days includes photographs and oral histories which describe camp from the late 1930’s through the 1970’s. Vintage photo themes include: Teenagers, Play, Daily Life, La Fiesta, and Family. Recorded oral histories will be heard recounting a myriad of individual’s experiences including: the Labor Day Fiesta and costume parade, grandmothers making fires, men fishing from the boats, baseball games with rivals, and the smells of fried fish, sugared churros, and warm tomatoes on the vine.
Bungalow is an installation of a section of the typical beach habitat by designer and camp member Irene Burgos that will create the rustic lifestyle of Spanish Camp. In the early days, families carried only necessities from the city: a pot for rice and beans, some forks, various tools, a pillow and 78-rpm records of Spanish music. City clothes gave way to bathing suits and sandals, which Ms. Burgos said were “virtually all you wore till Labor Day, when the Grand Fiesta costume parade with guitars marked the end of the season.”
Dorothy Day, the remarkable leader of the Catholic Worker Movement, was one of the later residents who found spiritual sustenance in a waterfront cottage at Spanish Camp. Her typewriter, once again at the museum, is shown courtesy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.
The Final Year features photographer Michael Falco’s color images of the residents during their last days at the camp. These images tell the dramatic story of the residents’ fight to stay and their controversial eviction. Falco was intrigued by the camp, which brought back boyhood memories of his own family’s beach cottage: The magic of the place attracted me, but the photographs captured the bitterness of that final year, including the images of the evictions and of the bulldozing of the camp.”
In the mid-90s, Spanish Naturopath Society, who controlled the land trust, sold Spanish Camp to a luxury home developer. The 45 resident families, who either owned a cottage or rented from a descendant of the founders, banded together to preserve the camp and its way of life—but lost in a high-profile court case.
Jim O’Grady--co-curator, writer, and former camp resident—reflected on the camp’s fate:
“For more than a decade, Staten Island has been the fastest growing county in the state. And now, in the aftermath of all that development, many Islanders are asking, ‘What have we lost?’ and ‘What is worth preserving?’ Maybe Spanish Camp could not or should not have been saved—that can certainly be debated. But the way of life it embodied—simple, neighborly and as close to nature as you’ll ever get in the city—suggests some answers to those questions. There could be no better time for this exhibit.”
The Spanish Camp controversy was fraught with strong emotion on every side, which still permeates conversations about the place. Still, everyone who lived there can agree with Ms. Burgos when she says: “This was our paradise!”
The Spanish Camp exhibition and related programs are supported, in part, by the New York Council on the Arts and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.
Related Programs at the Museum and in the Community:
· Public reception Friday, October 12, from 6pm-8pm.
Part of the Target Free Friday MuseumNite Series
With catering courtesy of Carmen’s Restaurant
· Curator & Artist Talk– Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 2p.m.
Award winning artist/photo journalist Michael Falco and Writer/Curator and Center for an Urban Future’s Research Director, Jim O’Grady and will lead a discussion in the Gallery about their Spanish Camp experiences.
· Lunch and Learn: Photographer Michael Falco Spanish Camp Final Year
Wednesday, November 14 at 12 noon
Call Maria Fiorelli at
(718) 727-1135 ext. 115
- Spanish Camp: Design for Community & Stories Swap
Friday, November 16, 2007 at 7:30pm
Part of the Target Free Friday MuseumNite Series
How does design influence community life and experience? Architectural writer Tamara Coombs will use the Spanish Camp site as a model in her visual lecture demonstrating how architectural and environmental design can dramatically influence community life and experience. Ms. Coombs notes “I will put it in historical context of other cooperative communities in the U.S., including an anarchist community which Emma Goldman visited, and the contemporary co-housing approach in this country, which has followed the staid Danish model.”
Followed by an open mic story swap about living at Spanish Camp.
- Community Panel Presentation–Spanish Camp: Place Matters –November 29, 2007 at 7pm at Spiro Hall, Wagner College– A panel discussion about preservation and the meaning of “cultural worth” using Spanish Camp as a model. Moderated by Mark Elliott, Ph.D, award winning Author and Professor of History. Featuring Steve Zeitlin, Ph.d folklorist, commentator NPR, and Director of Citylore, Jim O’Grady, curator, writer/Center for an Urban Future, David Goldfarb, Past Chairman of the Historic Districts Council, Patricia M. Salmon, Curator of History Staten Island Museum, with a visual introduction by award winning Artist/Photo Journalist Michael Falco.
- Two Eco-Walks to Spanish Camp Beach
Wednesday, October 24 at 2 pm-4pm
meet at Hylan Blvd. and Lipsett Avenue. This walk is under one mile.
Friday, November 23, at 10am
meet at Blue Heron Park (parking lot). This walk is under two miles.
Discover the beauty and ecology of the Annadale woods, bluffs, and Seguine Pond from the ice age to the present. (known to campers as the Swamp). Wear comfortable hiking shoes.
Also in the Community:
Dorothy Day Film (Title TBA)
November 2 at 7:30 pm
in the Unitarian Church of S.I. Parish Hall
312 Fillmore Street
sponsored by UCSI Social Concerns Committee and Peace Action of S.I.
Other History Programs in October and November
All Aboard: The History of the Staten Island Ferry
Thursday, October 18, 7 pm
Patricia Salmon will host the talk and announce the reprinting of New York Municipal Ferryboats.
Launch of the Ferryboat Richmond, May 20th 1905.
From the Postcard Collection of the Staten Island Museum.
That Ever Loyal Island: Staten Island and the American Revolution.
A Lecture/Book Signing
Saturday, October 27, 2pm
Author Phillip Papas will recount Staten Island’s Revolutionary wartime allegiance to the British Crown.
Walking Tour of St. George/Municipal Ferryboats
Sunday, October 28, 12 noon
$8/$3 museum members, to register call (718) 727-1135 ext 123
Geared for adults. Meet at the Museum.
126th Anniversary Gala
Thursday, November 1, 6:30–10:30pm
Hilton Garden Inn Ball Room
An elegant evening to benefit the museum.
Call Cheryl at (718) 727- 1135 ext. 113 for reservations
Filmmaking on Staten Island: The Early Days
Sunday, November 4, 2pm
A lecture with film-clips by author Kevin Lewis will include work by silent film star Mabel Normand in honor of her 114th birthday!
The First Staten Island Know-it-All Bowl
Friday, November 9 doors open at 7:00, contest starts 7:30-10pm, at Curtis High School
Think you know a lot about Staten Island trivia? Assemble your team of history, nature, popular culture buffs today; vie for the honorable Museum Cup Award, or come to cheer!
$15 per 3 person team, call Seth at (718)727-1135 ext.105, before Nov. 1
$2 audience entry, free for museum members
Current History Exhibitions
The Lenape: The First Staten Islanders
Our collection of art, tools, natural history specimens and documents reveal how the original settlers of our island lived. A Richmond County Savings Foundation Exhibit.
STATEN ISLAND FERRY:
The First 100 Years of Municipal Service
Celebrating the centennial year of SI Ferry operation, explore the history, art, people and sites of our floating icon.
History Archives & Library – THE history resource for Staten Island
The History Archives & Library of the Staten Island Museum contains thousands of books covering five centuries. More than 15,000 books and 10,000 periodicals concentrated in natural history, art and history are housed within the library.
The extensive book holdings of both William T. Davis and John J. Crooke constitute a fascinating portion of the library. A large collection of books, pamphlets and periodicals concentrating on various facets of Staten Island history enable researchers to analyze an array of information dating back to the inhabitation of Native Americans. Staten Island¹s largest collection of books on Natural History, both local and worldwide, provide data and information in the fields of geology, botany, archeology, mammalogy, entomology, and more. History related books on archeology, genealogy, art, architecture, historic sites, the military and more, allow researchers to find comprehensive resources to make sound analysis and documentation of local, domestic and international historical events, trends and occurrences.
Many of the books found in the History Archives & Library cannot be found anywhere else and for this reason scholars have found the Library to be an excellent resource for locating long forgotten published material. For further information on the History Archives & Library please call Patricia Salmon, Curator of History, at 718.727.1135 x 123.
Bay Street looking north from Tappen Park, Stapleton, Staten Island, ca. 1907.
From the Postcard Collection of the History Archives & Library.
The History Archives & Library houses thousands of photographs and postcards that can be used for research or reproduction purposes.
List of Collections and Artifacts available to the public:
Abraham Winant Collection, 1845-1946
Account Books Storage Group, 1722-1897
Aeronautics on Staten Island
African-American History on Staten Island, 1693-1977
Albert Melniker Architectural Collection
Americana Storage Group, 1722-1897
Anthony Lanza Photograph Collection, 1940s
Anton's Notes, 1840-1865
Archaeology Papers, 1962-1972
Architectural Survey Collection, 1977-1980
Athletic Clubs on Staten Island, 1896-1930
Atlases, other, 1796-1960
Atlases, Staten Island, 1874-1917
Balthazar Kreischer Papers, 1850-1949
Biographies of Staten Islanders, 1851-1945
Bridges & Tunnels Caesar Nicoli, 1965
Captain John Carr Papers (Barnagat Lightship #19), 1913-1934
Carol Stryker Collection, 1918-1992
Charles Durant, 1829-1929
Charles W. Leng Papers, 1876-1941
Churches & Cemeteries on Staten Island, 1713-1978
Clark Family Papers
Color Photographers Club of Staten Island
Cornelius J. Kolff Real Estate Collection, 1787-1970
Daniel Low Bridgman Papers, 1919-1955
Edith Meyer Postcard Collection
Edward Close Delaven, Jr. Paper, 1828-1848
Elizabeth M. Newbold Collection, 1938-1940s
Environmental Collection, 1857-1990
Erastus Wiman Collection, 1886-1952
Ferries & Railroads Papers 1740-1929
Flora of Staten Island (Richmond County Collections), 1879-1929
Franz X. Hessinger Landscape Drawings & Manuscripts, 1860-1879
Fred Sklenar Collection, 1949
Frederick Law Olmsted Collection, 1667-1973
French Court Documents, 1371-1643
Gabriel Poillon Disoway Papers, 1828-1848
Genealogies: Staten Island Families, 1597-1990s
Geology of Staten Island, 1813-1979
George W. Haughwout, 1677-1969
George W. Tuttle Papers, 1904-1917
George William Curtis Papers, 1784-1955
Gil Wasserman Collection & Papers, 1950-1979
Gilbert Wasserman Map Collection 1925-1961
Gravelle-Foster Collection, 1945-1954
Hans Behm Papers
Howard Henderson Cleaves Collection, 1902-1978
Hugh Powell Papers & Collection 1834-1978
Jacques Jacobsen Jr., 1800-1960s
James Paul Chapin Papers, 1900-1966
Jasper Cropsey, 1866-1909
John Jeremy Crooke Papers, 1861-1911
John Loeffler Family Collection, 1850-1980
Journals, Daybooks, Classbooks: Storage Collection 1800-1949
Land Papers, Richmond County, 1670-1939
Lee Ellison, 1929-1958
Louis L. Tribus Collection, 1865-1930
Louis Pope Gratacap Papers, 1884-1920
Mabel Abbott Paper, 1874-1973
Manteo Family Sicilian Marionette Theatre, 1919-1989
Maps & Atlases Maps, other, 1902-1957
Maps, Staten Island 1826-1978
Mathilde Weingartner, 1915-1984
Military Records Collection, 1799-1977
Movie Making on Staten Island
Nathaniel J. Wyeth Papers, 1866-1888
Nathaniel Lord Britton Papers, 1662-1935
New Jersey Collection, 1903-1972
New York City Collection, 1836-1977
New York State Collection, 1830-1972
Organizations Collection, 1783-1979
Pond Survey Papers, 1834-1978
Real Estate, 1920-1989
Richard Conner Papers, 1770-1842
Richmond Borough Records
Richmond County Medical Society, 1806-1999
Richmond County Papers, 1766-1979
Robert Brooks Smith Papers
Robert O'Conner, MD, 1928-1999
Rossville Collection, 1684-1974
Sailors Snug Harbor Collection, 1853-1979
Sanderson Smith Map Collection, 16__-1857
Schools & Colleges, 1884-present
Smith Infirmary Collection with other hospitals, 1864-1957
Staten Island Artists & Musicians
Staten Island Authors
Staten Island Bird & Nature Club Papers, 1916-1948
Staten Island Business & Industry
Staten Island Family Papers, Wills, Administration Letters & Inventories 1704-1876
Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island History Pamphlets, 1700-present
Staten Island Organizations
Staten Island Parks 1895-1978
Staten Island Planning Collection
Staten Island Quarantine Collection, 1845-1971
Steele Papers, 1702-1959
The Clifton Boat Club Papers, 1881-1914
The Papers of Charles Arthur Hollick, 1843-1933
The Papers of Charles Gilbert Hine, 1883-1933
The Scrapbook Collection & Storage Group, 1860-1903
Thomas Fatzinger Patterson Papers, 1879-1899
Thomas W. Letts Collection, 1861-1923
Transcripts from Audio/Video Recordings
Tube Maps, 1930-1969
Walter Stuart Collection, 1880-1955
Water Supply Records
Weather Collection, 1887-1981
Whitford Architectural Collection, 1907-1963
William H. Weigmann Papers, 1899-1953
William T. Davis Papers, 1807-1945
William Winter Collection, 1886-1952
Women's Collection - A Storage Group, 1816-1979
Web Site: www.statenislandmuseum.org
Sunday – Friday: 12pm– 5pm
Main number: (718) 727-1135
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day
The museum building is wheelchair accessible.
Students and Seniors $1.
FREE to members and children under 12.
FREE Lunchtime Break: Every Tuesday between 12–2pm
History Archives & Library
Tuesday – Thursday 10am-4pm by appointment
718-727-1135 ext 122
Discount parking during weekdays–and free on most weekends and evenings–see our map to locate the lot on Wall Street.
Mission, History & Collections
Mission: It is our mission at the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences to contribute to the enrichment of cultural life on Staten Island by identifying, collecting, preserving, researching, exhibiting, and interpreting collection objects and themes of artistic merit, scientific, and historical value relating primarily to the people and environment of Staten Island while simultaneously broadening community enrichment through outreach educational programs for a regional audience.
Enriching the cultural lives of people in our community is the primary purpose of the Staten Island Museum (legal name: Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences). Founded in 1881, we continue our founders’ vision by focusing our efforts on educational programming and exhibitions where display objects are both physically and intellectually accessible. As New York City’s only active collecting general interest museum, we exhibit, interpret and preserve over a million natural science specimens, artworks, historical objects, archival documents, photographs, and books for current and future generations.
Originally founded as the Natural Science Association of Staten Island, we have focused on environmental protection and advocacy in our region since 1881. We participated in the preservation of High Rock Park and the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, named after our co-founder, and since 1908 we have conducted annual bird counts together with the Audubon Society. With over 100 years of ongoing scientific records of natural surveys conducted by our founders and curatorial staff, the Museum is in the unique position to track the trends of Staten Island’s plant and animal species. We help build an informed environmental community from a broad audience through exhibitions and hands-on exploratory educational programming.
The History Archives & Library has been collecting archival ephemera for well over a century and contains important collections of historical photographs, documents from prominent Staten Islanders, collections related to business and material relating to the people and history of Staten Island.
The Science Collection includes many “type specimens.” (“Type specimens,” which are individual specimens used as the basis for determining the characteristics of a species, are invaluable to researchers interested in the documentation of new species.) The Entomology Collection includes 60,000 cicadas representing 450 species, North America’s largest cicada collection. In addition, we have the Herbarium, Zoology, Ornithology, Conchology, Marine Invertebrate, Geology, Archeology, and Wet Collections.
The Art Collection has a strong regional perspective including 19th and 20th century portraits of prominent Staten Islanders as well as landscapes by Staten Islanders. European and American artwork provides a historical framework for the Art Collection, including a portion of the Kress Collection of the Italian Renaissance. In addition to our larger American and European fine art aggregations, our collection includes African, Asian, and Native American Art from antiquity to the present day.
The plans to expand Staten Island’s original hometown Museum actually began in 1965, when the Museum leadership worked in concert with the newly formed Landmarks Commission to save the first two buildings at Snug Harbor from demolition, which then lead to the acquisition of the entire site by the City in 1971. Today, with almost $16 million in City Capital funds secured, the Staten Island Museum plans to open the first major art museum on the Island, in a modern, fully climate controlled environment, housed within the walls of one of the triple land-marked front five buildings at Snug Harbor, Building A. As an environmental pioneer, the Staten Island Museum is aiming to meet at minimum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification.
In 2007, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg allocated $10 million to the reconstruction of the interior of Building A on top of the $3,510,000 from earlier years. Councilman Michael E. McMahon secured $2,413,000 and Borough President James P. Molinaro $780,000. The project is currently in the Design Development Phase with Gluckman Mayner Architects and is under the management of both the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC). Groundbreaking is planned for late 2008 with the formal opening of the Art Museum scheduled to follow two years later. In addition to art galleries for changing exhibitions and permanent collection display, the new building will house an auditorium for education programs and performances, a community gallery to be shared with the Art Lab and others.
The entire process was jumpstarted in 2003 with a privately financed Master Plan, funded by The New York Community Trust, Richmond County Savings Foundation, The Staten Island Advance (through The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation) and The Staten Island Foundation. Speaking at the Museum’s 125th Anniversary Gala last November Mayor Bloomberg said: “The City was delighted to contribute … to the renovation of the [Staten Island Museum’s] buildings at Snug Harbor. I think Snug Harbor is one of the great treasures of the City. We have got to make sure that when people come from all over the world to New York City, they see this [site].” With the opening of the Art Museum at Snug Harbor, there will be a new synergy on the site, and the Staten Island Museum’s presence will play a major role in helping the campus to become a regional attraction.
While the Staten Island Museum will be renovating Building A, it will have a physical presence on the site starting in December 2007. A $100,000 grant from the Deutsche Bank will enable the Museum to open Staten Island’s first Art Conservation Center. The Center will be housed in the connecting structure between Building B and Building H, and is currently being renovated through a $100,000 grant secured from the NY State Assembly (the late John Lavelle) and will contain collection storage furniture funded with $50,000 from the NY State Senate (John Marchi). In addition, Charles von Nostitz Painting Conservation Studio donated $46,000 in conservation equipment.