Tags Posts tagged with "Ellen Mason"

Ellen Mason

Dr. Richard Elinson
Researchers, tour guides, gardeners, curatorial interns

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, like most museums, would find it difficult to operate without volunteers.

According to the American Alliance of Museums, the majority of people who work in museums are volunteers. Overall, U.S. museums have six volunteers for every paid staff member. And even in the largest museums, volunteers generally outnumber paid full-time staff two to one.

 At the Vanderbilt, volunteers enthusiastically assist the staff by conducting tours, greeting visitors, beautifying the grounds and undertaking curatorial and conservation projects. They also work as interns or staff aides in various departments, examine marketing and branding, decorate the Mansion for the holidays, and perform music on the 1,476-pipe Aeolian organ. Approximately 100 volunteers generously donate countless hours each year.

“Volunteers love this estate, work hard, and make invaluable contributions,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director. “Their work saves the museum a lot of money each year and helps us to support Mr. Vanderbilt’s original educational mission. We’re very grateful to them.”

Mary Schlotter

Mary Schlotter

Mary Schlotter and her daughter, Krishtia McCord, have volunteered their talents for years to create holiday magic in the Mansion, as have members of local garden clubs. The mother-daughter design team owns and operates Harbor Homestead & Co., based in Centerport.

“My love of design, history and flowers is what drives me to volunteer,” Schlotter said. “I find myself brainstorming in June for the holiday designs. Volunteering is so important if we are to keep Long Island treasures like the Vanderbilt looking their best. I often refer to it as a jewel in my backyard!”

“One cold November night, I had just finished my design and I looked back at the Mansion. The lights were on and the Christmas lights were glistening. I wondered if William and Rosamond would like what we had done,” she added.

Matthew Titchiner

Matthew Titchiner

Before moving to New York, Matthew Titchiner managed Harewood House, one of England’s premier historic estates. His responsibilities included staff, operations, visitor experience, marketing and branding. 

“My wife is a pediatric resident at Stony Brook University Hospital, and I wanted to familiarize myself with the American museum world before starting full-time work,” he said. “So, I reached out to the Vanderbilt.”

Titchiner first researched and cataloged the Vanderbilt collection of ancient weapons, then undertook an in-depth project that examines the museum’s branding. This 66-page report analyzed signage, the website, communications and the application of audience data and feedback.

“Matthew brought his deep museum experience and discerning eye to his analysis of how the Vanderbilt presents itself to the world,” Reinheimer said. “His keen insights will be valuable as we continue to improve how the museum reaches out to and communicates with its diverse and growing audience.”

“The Vanderbilt’s interesting mix of historic mansion, park and planetarium is a unique selling point,” said Titchiner. “It’s a museum of a museum, a snapshot in time.”

Bill Caputi

Bill Caputi

Bill Caputi plays beautiful classical music on the Mansion’s grand Aeolian pipe organ. The retired electrical engineer has played for more than 20 years for guided tours and during the museum’s annual holiday and Valentine’s Day banquets.

 “I studied piano as a boy,” he said. “I took lessons from a music teacher on the school’s huge pipe organ and played occasionally in a nearby church. And I was the pianist for my college glee club. When we moved to Centerport, I learned that the Vanderbilt pipe organ had just been renovated so I volunteered to play.” 

Founded in 1887 by William Tremaine, the Aeolian Company grew to be the largest musical instrument manufacturer in America by 1920. Pipe organs were installed in most elite mansions in the early 1900s. The Vanderbilt organ was installed in 1926. 

“I’m glad visitors and staff enjoy the music,” Caputi said. “I often play Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Broadway tunes. At Halloween, I like to play scary music.”

Dr. Richard Elinson

Dr. Richard Elinson

Wearing protective curator’s gloves, Dr. Richard Elinson has inspected nearly 1,400 vintage books in the Vanderbilt Mansion Library. “The books had been cataloged, but needed to be examined closely,” said Elinson. “I’ve been doing condition reports. I make note of damaged bindings, water damage or just interesting things I notice.” 

A retired professor of biology at the University of Toronto and Duquesne University, Elinson has worked with the Curatorial Department for the three years. The collection includes volumes that reflect Vanderbilt’s interests — the chronicles of 18th- and 19th-century naturalists and explorers and the women’s suffrage movement championed by his mother, Alva.

“It’s an enjoyable three hours once a week,” he said. “It’s a real thrill to sit in that old library. You feel like you’re in a different world.”

Gloria Hall

Gloria Hall

A retired Northport elementary school teacher, Gloria Hall leads the volunteer gardeners program she created in 2002 with her late husband, Bill. Both graduated from the Cornell University Master Gardeners Program. Today, an average of 20 gardeners work from May to October.

“I was brought up ‘playing in the dirt,’ exploring seed catalogs, trading plants with friends, and just enjoying a calmness that being in the garden brings,” Hall said. “To share my knowledge and enhance the Vanderbilt grounds gives me great pleasure.”

 

 

 

Ellen Mason

Ellen Mason

Ellen Mason began volunteering in 2006, after retiring as a high school English teacher. She was invited by a colleague and friend, Gretchen Oldrin Mones, first vice president of the Vanderbilt board of trustees. Mason began as a greeter in the Hall of Fishes.

“I was asked to do a walk-on part during Living History Tours,” she said. “I played Olympic skating champion Sonja Henie, a close friend of the Vanderbilts. I spoke just two lines.” She has played many historic roles since.

 “I am very fortunate to be part of the museum and have a strong appreciation for its physical beauty,” Mason said. “For 13 years, I have repeated the same mantra when I arrive here: ‘Thank you, Willie, for giving us this.’ I constantly learn and laugh with the staff. We are all so protective of this magical place.”

Photos courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

 

Members of the Living History cast, from left, Florence Lucker, Peter Reganato, Beverly Pokorny and Ellen Mason. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s popular Living History tours will return on Memorial Day weekend, on Saturday, May 25. Tours will be given every Saturday and Sunday at regular intervals between noon and 3:30 p.m. through Sunday, Sept. 1.

 This summer it’s 1939 in the Mansion. Guides in costume as family members and household staff tell stories of the Vanderbilt family and its famous guests.

 Among the characters portrayed by the Mansion guides will be Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia; Millicent Hearst (wife of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst); Whitney Warren of Warren & Wetmore Architects, who designed the Vanderbilt Mansion and Grand Central Terminal; the Duchess of Windsor; and William Vanderbilt’s siblings, Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan and Harold Vanderbilt, an expert on contract bridge and winner of the America’s Cup.

 “The guides will highlight some of the major events of 1939, including the New York World’s Fair. NBC did its first television broadcast, of a Princeton-Columbia football game. Joe Louis won the first heavyweight boxing title, the first Superman comic book was published, and the movies that opened included “Gone with the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” said Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs.

“Among the surprising economic facts of that year – a gallon of gas cost 10 cents; a loaf of bread was 8 cents; the average new house cost $3,800; and the average annual wage was $1,730,” she added.

Tickets for the tours, which can be purchased only at the door, are $18 adults, $17 seniors and students, $15 children ages 12 and under and include general admission to the museum grounds. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org

Living History cast members, from left, Ellen Mason as Elizabeth Arden; Peter Reganato as Pietro, the Italian chef; Beverly Pokorny as Ann Morgan; and Florence Lucker as Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport turns back the clock once again by offering its popular weekend Living History tours now through Sept. 2. For more than a decade, these tours have delighted visitors to the elegant 24-room, Spanish Revival waterfront mansion, Eagle’s Nest, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Vanderbilt has been called a “museum of a museum” — the mansion, natural-history and marine collections galleries are preserved exactly as they were when the Vanderbilts lived on the estate. 

Guides dressed as members of the Vanderbilt family and household staff tell stories about the mansion’s famous residents and their world-renowned visitors. Stories told on the tours are based on the oral histories of people who worked for the Vanderbilts as teenagers and young adults. Some stories originated in William K. Vanderbilt II’s books of his world travels and extensive sea journeys.

This summer it will be 1936 again. Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan is enjoying a reunion of her friends in the women’s suffrage movement. 

“The movie ‘Captains Courageous’ with Spencer Tracy is playing in the theaters, and Agatha Christie’s new novel, ‘Dumb Witness,’ is in the bookstores,” said Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs. “Legendary aviator Amelia Earhart is lost at sea in July, and European leaders are faced with threats of German expansion. And the U.S. Post Office issues a commemorative stamp in honor of the women’s voting rights activist and social reformer Susan B. Anthony on the 30th anniversary of her death in 1906.”

Earlier in 1936, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia — who supported women’s voting rights — had been the keynote speaker at a dinner at the city’s Biltmore Hotel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Women’s City Club in New York. The Living History presentation is set against this background of national and international news. 

LaGuardia is invited to Eagle’s Nest to join a few of the Vanderbilt family members — including Vanderbilt’s brother, Harold; his sister, Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough; and her guests Elizabeth Arden, Anne Morgan and her nephew, Henry Sturgis Morgan, Gress said. Consuelo and her guests reminisce about their younger days at suffragette rallies. 

The museum will display items in two guest rooms that commemorate the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York State. Included will be an enlargement of the Susan B. Anthony stamp, suffrage banners and sashes and an authentic outfit worn in that era by Consuelo. (Vanderbilt’s mother, Alva, also had been active in the movement.) 

The Living History cast: Ellen Mason will play Elizabeth Arden, who created the American beauty industry. Yachtsman Harold Vanderbilt — three-time winner of the America’s Cup, and expert on contract bridge — will be portrayed by Jim Ryan and Gerard Crosson. Peter Reganato will be Pietro, the Italian chef. Dale Spencer will perform as William Belanske, the curator and artist who traveled with Vanderbilt on his epic journeys. Anne Morgan will be played by Judy Pfeffer and Beverly Pokorny.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will present its Living History tours in the mansion on Saturdays and Sundays at 12, 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Tickets: $8 per person, available only at the door, are in addition to the museum’s general admission fee of $8 adults, $7 senior and students, $5 children ages 12 and under. Children ages 2 and under are free. For more information, please call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. 

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