LIU Archives Update for Fire Island

The Arts Project had a Best Float competition seen here in front of the Community House and Theatre. Photo courtesy of Cherry Grove Archives Collection.

A little over 11 months ago, Fire Island News covered the exploratory meeting that took place on June 23, 2018, in which Dr. Gregory Hunter introduced himself to the keepers of historical archives collections in various Fire Island communities to discuss the Long Island University (LIU) Digitization Project. The university is a recipient of a $1.5 million grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to digitize materials in up to 80 local historical societies across Long Island, over a five-year period through the year 2022.

There were many conditions and caveats discussed, which Dr. Hunter stressed must be clearly understood to successfully obtain one of the coveted openings available through this program. Since then, three repositories on Fire Island so far have made it through the labyrinth. They include Cherry Grove Archives Collection, Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society, and Ocean Beach Historical Society.

“It was a great experience,” said Troy Files, committee chair of Cherry Grove Archives Collection. “It went smoothly, we scanned over 1,000 images at the Watch Hill Ferry Terminal in Patchogue. Colleen and Kelly (the LIU graduate students who assisted in the digitization) were great. We scanned slides, negatives and photo albums. We will scan larger images later this summer.”

Cherry Grove Archive Collection was the first to be awarded the grant last August, so they are substantially ahead in their progress. Robert Bonanno, president of Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society, was notified of his successful application in February of 2019.

“I went to one of Cherry Grove’s scanning sessions at the Watch Hill terminal to observe,” said Bonanno. “I was surprised how small their tabletop scanners were. Much of my collection is larger format work that will have to be done at LIU. There is still so much I have to learn.”

Linna Salamone, president and curator at the Ocean Beach Historical Society, was notified shortly after Bonanno, and sees herself just at the earliest of stages with the project.

“By time I was notified they had to stop until next fall when the new school term begins,” wrote Salamone. She described the application process as reasonably straightforward, and not as difficult as she was concerned it would be. However she thinks the real challenge will be deciding what items in the vast collection of the OB Historical Society collection should be included in the project.

At that June 23, 2018, meeting Dr. Hunter explained that “sampling,” which is selecting the most important representative pieces in your collection, is essential to the success of a participant’s scanning project. LIU is scanning the collections of many repositories throughout Long Island – including the Robert Moses Archive in Great Neck – and resources must be used wisely.

There is still hope for other Fire Island communities that have interest in the LIU project. The three Fire Island repositories in the process all had the advantage of having their 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt status in good order. Grass roots collectives on Fire Island may have the will and desire, but prerequisite is essential to qualify for this program.

“I think that community support was a huge component in our success all along,” said Brian Clark, also of Cherry Grove Archives Collection. “Residents donate from their personal collections, and they are generous when it comes to fundraising. This archive is essential to our history and identity as a LBGTQ community.”

Perhaps the one last component that none of the participants mentioned, but nevertheless obvious to this writer, was the personal commitment all three keepers of their respective repositories demonstrated. Files and his husband, Robert, took storage containers off island to their Sag Harbor residence in anticipation of the Cherry Grove dock rehabilitation project, which was announced shortly after receiving grant award notification. Bonanno and Salamone see the mission of the organizations they represent as a higher calling. It will be interesting to see where their journey takes them.