The Finger Lakes Museum Finds a Home

And the winner is … Keuka Lake State Park.

Yes, after nearly a year of evaluating sites for the Finger Lakes Cultural & Natural History Museum, the board of trustees recently chose Keuka Lake.

However, the trustees still view the real winner as the Finger Lakes.

From the beginning, the museum has been promoted as a boon to the entire 14-county Finger Lakes Region. The trustees received proposals from 19 sites throughout the region, and board president John Adamski has repeatedly urged the site sponsors to stay involved as the site selection process played out. A recent meeting of the public relations committee found members of the Geneva and Aurora site teams at the table. Other committees count members from other site sponsor teams.

But physically, the museum had to be located somewhere. One of the sites had to emerge as the “winner,” and Adamski noted the reasons for choosing Keuka Lake at a recent press conference after the choice was announced. The press conference took place on a beautiful spring day at Esperanza Mansion overlooking sun-splashed Keuka Lake State Park.

Starting with 19 sites, the board of trustees first narrowed the number to five and then to two: Keuka Lake State Park near Branchport, and Geneva/Seneca Lake State Park. Keuka Lake State Park, located in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country, is on the west side of Bluff Point at the north end of the lake. The park is west of the village of Penn Yan off Route 54A, almost to Branchport. The park offers camping areas, a swimming beach, picnic shelter, boat launch ramp, docking space and hiking trails.

“For more than two months,” Adamski explained, “the site selection committee and the board of trustees have been wrestling with the most difficult decision of the entire site selection process: choosing the right home for the Finger Lakes Museum between two very beautiful, but distinctively different sites.”

The Board brought in ConsultEcon Inc., a Boston-based market research firm, to help guide the decision. The consultants reported back that the project is viable at either site, although for different reasons.

Adamski commented, “While the Seneca Lake site has significant advantages like a central location, the board determined that the Keuka Lake site more closely met the requirements that were originally established in the strategic plan, especially as they relate to natural history programming.

He listed the advantages that tipped the scales in favor of the Keuka Lake site.

• There are 700 feet of intimate lakefront with a level beach.
• The natural history element of the project is predicted to draw the most visitors. The rolling, hilly terrain, ravines, brook, woods and areas of natural succession that exist there are ideal for wildlife exhibits in natural habitats.
• Several hundred acres of land are available for wildlife habitats and interpretive use, now or in the future.
• A paved 350-­car parking lot already exists.
• Keuka College has offered to add Museum Sciences to its curriculum and become a partner in the educational aspect of the museum.
• Yates County and Keuka ­area business leaders have pledged more than $2 million in startup funding.
• The Branchport Elementary School, which is currently vacant, has been purchased by the Finger Lakes Visitors Association for use as the museum’s base of operation during the project’s start-up phases.
• Finger Lakes State Parks and the Finger Lakes Museum Project will undertake a joint master plan for the entire 620-­acre park.

The Finger Lakes Cultural & Natural History Museum now is moving to address raising funds to build the $40-million facility. Adamski knows it will be a challenge, but he is confident that the trustees will reach their goal. After all, it was only two years ago that he first aired the idea of a Finger Lakes Museum in an article in this magazine.

For more information about the cultural and natural history museum, visit the website at and sign up for the e-mail newsletter. People also can get more involved by joining one or more of the museum’s committees, including facilities, finance, fundraising, partnerships programs, and PR and marketing. Contact Adamski at 585-746-6247 or

Museum Milestones

• March 2008 – The notion to create a museum to showcase the cultural heritage and ecological history of the 9,000-square­-mile Finger Lakes Region is first floated in a Life in the Finger Lakes magazine article by John Adamski.
• July 2008 – The Finger Lakes Cultural & Natural History Museum initiative holds its first organizational meeting.
• August 2008 – An interim board of trustees is elected at the second organizational meeting. Work begins on a strategic plan.
• April 2009 – Each of the 14 Finger Lakes counties is invited to participate in a competitive site-selection process to find a location to build the museum.
• May 2009 – The Finger Lakes Cultural & Natural History Museum is awarded a Museum Charter by the State Education Department’s Board of Regents.
• June 2009 – 125 people attend an event at the New York Wine & Culinary Center, which was catered by Wegmans and the Finger Lakes Wine Trails, to celebrate the award of the charter.
• July 2009 – 19 sites are submitted for consideration as potential locations for the museum by eight counties and the city of Geneva.
• December 2009 – The Finger Lakes Museum is awarded not­-for-­profit status by the Internal Revenue Service.
• February 2010 – The field of 19 potential locations has been narrowed to two: Geneva/Seneca Lake State Park and Keuka Lake State Park.
• April 2010 – After a market research study by ConsultEcon Inc. of Boston, and recommendations by the site selection committee, the board of trustees selects Keuka Lake State Park as home for the Finger Lakes Museum.

by Phil Beckley

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