Vanderbilt Museum

I visited the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, LI recently, a beloved museum from my childhood. The exhibits are actually not too interesting for a child. In fact, I even remembered them as dusty, old drawers full of rocks, and animal specimens pinned to the wall. But for some reason I was and continue to be drawn to the place, there is something romantic about it, something that makes me want to be there. (Oh God, I just had a “I have always been the caretaker” flash of feeling about it.)

They also have a planetarium and I could NEVER get enough of that. I think they had a meteorite that I’d stare and stare at. This has been in space.

The exhibits are better than I remembered them. I can see how a child thought they were boring, but now I see their 19th century beauty (see here), although they were actually built in the early 20th century. But because it’s me I was sad for all the creatures that had to die to make them.

It got worse upstairs. Someone killed that little baby in the lower right. Who could do that?? Who could look at that little thing and kill it?? It’s not clear to me if William K. Vanderbilt II was the hunter, or his son William K. Vanderbilt III. I wish the crocodile in the next shot had got him.

Vanderbilt Museum, Long Island

Vanderbilt Museum, Long Island

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

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