Moving the Museum Forward

Local carpenters install the horizontal purlins that will be used to install new metal roofing to the Creekside Center. The restored timber frame is from a barn that was originally built 158 years ago.

by John Adamski

Last fall, based on recommendations from several respected regional business and civic leaders, the Finger Lakes Museum’s board of trustees, after collaborating with major donors, unanimously voted to change its strategic plan and consolidate the project onto a single site at the Branchport Elementary School campus. The collective logic was that the move would enhance fundraising success by building the museum on property that it already owns and accelerate construction because that site is shovel-ready now.

Re-branded the Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium (FLM&A), the project will be developed in stages. Phase One will transform the existing building into an exhibit hall, auditorium, event space, retail space and food court. It will include a radio and television production studio for the creation of history and nature documentary films, and K-through-12 curriculum-compatible programs. A live bald eagle aviary and exhibit is also in the plan.

Construction of the Creekside Center, the museum’s canoe and kayak livery, is underway and will be in operation soon through partnerships with Cabela’s and Reagan’s Canoes & Kayaks, of Himrod.

The most ambitious part of the project is the Finger Lakes Aquarium, which will be its major component. It is being planned to be the largest freshwater aquarium in the Northeast, and will be built in the geological formation of a typical Finger Lake. This part of the project, which is part of Phase Two, is still on the drawing board and a few years away.

Other changes taking place are administrative in nature. After five years as board president, I’ve stepped down to make way for new leadership. William Gaske, a five-year board member and the museum’s legal counsel, was elected to chair the board in May. Bill recently retired from a New

York City law firm where he specialized in providing legal services to not-for-profit organizations like the Finger Lakes Museum. Before that, he served six years as the business manager of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City, which is part of The Smithsonian Institution. I am remaining on the board and will direct the museum’s public relations.

Also in May, the board appointed Natalie Payne as executive director and elected her to a seat on the board. She has been with the project since its beginning and recently earned her master’s degree in not-for-profit administration through a Finger Lakes Museum scholarship at Keuka College. She launched her “Moving the Museum Forward” initiative her second day on the job and exciting things have been happening ever since. Previously, Natalie served as acting curator and wine sales manager at Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua.

Two new board members include Dr. John Halstead, president emeritus of the College at Brockport, State University of New York, who was elected in July and Dr. Paul Alioto, superintendent of Dansville Central Schools, who will take his seat in September. Dr. Halstead was previously on the museum’s advisory board, along with his wife Kathy, both of whom are strong advocates for the FLM&A. Dr. Alioto was a founding board member of The Wild Center in Tupper Lake and still retains his seat on that board. We are looking forward to the experience he will bring to our board.

In order to continue moving the museum forward, raising funds is critical. Please visit to make a secure online tax-deductible donation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *