About Our Collection

The East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection is a special collection and archive dedicated to the history and people of Long Island. What was once a room specially built in 1930 to house the personal collection of historian Morton Pennypacker, is currently a 5-room research and study area, containing a vast array of original, historic, as well as contemporary, materials that chronicle life on Long Island from the seventeenth century to the present day.

Among its more than 25,000 items, the Long Island Collection’s holdings include photographs, postcards, whaling logs, diaries, account books, deeds, wills, genealogies, maps, architectural drawings, oral histories, and newspapers. Various items of note include early Native American documents and artifacts, the 1599 Gardiner family bible, the original deed to Shelter Island, the Captain Kidd “cloth of gold,” and materials relating to the Culper Spy Ring.

The Thomas Moran Biographical Art Collection is also represented here with many original pen-and-ink and pencil sketches, etchings, lithographs, engravings, and several watercolor sketches by artist Thomas Moran (1837-1926) and members of his artistic family. The collection also contains manuscript biographical material, correspondence, books, pamphlets, personal memorabilia, and exhibition catalogs.

Hundreds of professional and amateur researchers utilize the Long Island Collection each year to study our one-of-a-kind materials. Some examples include local residents interested in their family genealogies, students, historians, journalists, documentary filmmakers, museum professionals, and so forth.


History of the Collection

On October 18, 1930, Morton Pennypacker, Long Island enthusiast, collector, and later Historian for both the Town of East Hampton and Suffolk County, presented his personal collection of Long Island books and other materials to The East Hampton Library.

Mr. Pennypacker, who had been collecting since he was a child, believed that people should be able to go to one place to research any topic about Long Island and endeavored to collect everything ever written about this region. By the late 1920’s, his apartment in Kew Gardens was alive and active with historians, teachers, librarians, and others interested in the history of Long Island. The only problem was that the research materials had outgrown the space of Mr. Pennypacker’s living quarters, and he had to find another home for his collection.

Morton Pennypacker not only had collecting but preservation in mind. He did not want his collection to be housed in a busy urban library where it would be overused and reduce the life span of the materials. The East Hampton Library was selected because it’s more than a hundred miles from Manhattan yet still accessible to the serious scholar.

Mary Gardiner Thompson and Jonathan T. Gardiner, who trace their ancestry to early settler Lion Gardiner, donated the money for the first room of the collection called The Gardiner Memorial Room. Today, in addition to research materials, one may see a permanent display of Gardiner Family items, a portrait of Jonathan T. Gardiner, and the Gardiner Family coat of arms on which the Long Island Collection symbol was based.

During the 1930’s, the card catalog was completed, and indexes were completed in the early 1940’s. The collection continued to grow and many materials were housed off-site. An addition was needed, but the library was not able to secure enough funds, tradesmen, and craftsmen for the project during World War II. Toward the end of the war, numerous members of the community pooled their money to contribute to the addition which was completed in 1946. Mrs. John Adams Mayer, the largest single donor, was given the honor of naming the room. She called the room The Gertrude Mumford Memorial Room after her late mother. A plaque lists the names of other contributors. Both of these rooms house books and other materials of the ever-growing collection and serve as workrooms for patrons. In 1997, the Edwards Archives were added to house additional materials.

The Long Island Collection now consists of five rooms, including the archival space. It is staffed by librarians and archivists who assist patrons and preserve the collection of books, documents, letters, whaling logs, photographs, newspapers, and numerous other materials pertaining to the history and people of Long Island. The Long Island Collection is also home to the Thomas Moran Biographical Art Collection, The History Project, Inc., Men’s Lives/ Long Island Fisherman Archive, and the East Hampton Heritage Architectural Archive.

In 2007, the Long Island Collection staff began the process of digitizing the collection. Digitized materials are available through Digital Long Island from the library website. Digitization aids preservation and provides remote access to patrons who are unable to visit the collection.

Anyone interested in researching Long Island history or topics may visit, use our digital resources, or contact us for assistance. Public hours are Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday, 1:00–4:30 p.m. Please contact us if you would like an appointment outside of these hours.

We look forward to working with you!

Sources:

Juckett, E.T. “Morton Pennypacker, Long Island Historian Spends Lifetime Collecting Data Pertaining to Long Island.” The Bridgehampton News, Vol. 56, No. 10, March 31, 1950, p.8.

Maxian, M. Bruce. A History of the Morton Pennypacker Long Island Collection: A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate Library School in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science. Long Island Island University, Brookville, New York, 1966.

Piastuck, Gina, ed. “The Long Island Collection.” Preface. Revealing the Past: The Historical Works Regarding East Hampton, New York of Norton Daniels, Sherrill Foster, Mac Griswold, and Hugh King. Ed. Tom Twomey. Bridgehampton: East End, 2014. Xv.