Thursday, June 2, 2011

suffolk county vanderbilt museum

We took a trip to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, the summer home of William K. Vanderbilt II, over the weekend. The image above shows old Willy K. himself, in 1898, on one of his many boats. Because, you see, William K. Vanderbilt II was not just a Vanderbilt, meaning that he basically had all the money and never had to work, he was also a Commodore - able to command any vessel on the sea - and a naturalist, spending as many if not more months traveling by boat in order to collect specimens from every corner of the world as he did on dry land. The property's mansion itself, named Eagle's Nest, is a spectacular Italian villa on Long Island's North Shore that is filled with spectacular antiques and surrounded by lovely grounds. It's an amazing spot to visit, but the house itself is only one of the draws of this highly unusual museum. There's also a planetarium, which we decided to skip on this visit. Instead, we focused on Vanderbilt's marine, natural history and ethnographic collections, which were acquired during his many travels. As far as I could tell, Vanderbilt basically just brought home pretty much everything he came across, including innumerable collections of fish and aquatic specimens preserved in formaldehyde, taxidermied animals both large and small, a mummy, and every type of fish, coral, shell, and other items dredged up from the sea imaginable, including a whale shark. If you ever want to spend a few hours looking at animals in glass jars and taking a charming living history house tour that's set in the 1930s, this is definitely the museum for you. More images on Flickr.

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