- The Southampton Historical Museum
's newly formed "Artifact Detecting Team (ADT) is a component of the Museum's three year capital
campaign to raise $326,000 in order to restore the 1739 Sayre Barn.
The great recession of 2008 left many non-profit victims in its wake. Especially hard hit across the US has been museums with revenues getting slammed by governmental budget cuts, reduced foundation grants and cutbacks in individual charitable giving. The timing was ripe for the Southampton Historical Museum to get creative and tap into a heretofore unknown source of funding driven by the passion to uncover local history in the Southampton's backyards and farm fields.
"Across America the number of properties available for these amateur historians to pursue their passion for uncovering the past has been dwindling due to continued land development, depletion of older relic finds from existing parks and schoolyards and the efforts by local archeological and historical societies to ban the hobby," said Barry Small, a Long Island resident and recent metal detecting enthusiast. "The unique combination of the colonial history in the Southampton area and the potential access to historically significant sites, large private estates and undeveloped pristine farmland makes for a metal detecting dream opportunity."
"Barry approached the museum with a unique and detailed proposal to help raise funds desperately needed to repair and preserve the Sayre Barn on the Rogers Mansion
site," said Tom Edmonds
, executive director of the museum. The museum has an operating budget of approximately $300,000 and has not had the money in recent years to give the historic structures under their stewardship the care they need, according to Edmonds. The proposal is projected to deliver around $20,000 in much needed funds to the capital raising campaign in the first year alone.
"My proposal was to create an annual dues paying, membership-driven Team of metal detecting hobbyists who would pay daily detecting fees directly to the non-profit Southampton Historical Museum for the opportunity to metal detect on various historical and estate sites and plowed farmlands which date back to their settlement in the early 1700s," said Small. The museum would be getting the appropriate permission from the landowners, as necessary.
The idea originated after Small read about the terrible plight of the Sayre Barn and other historic structures around Long Island in a local newspaper. "This past fall I had the opportunity to metal detect on some Southampton area farmland and made some great 1700's era finds. I was immediately hooked," said Small. "After such a great opportunity I was racking my brain for months trying to figure out how to gain access to these historically rich properties. I knew that I would be willing to pay at least $100 per day to detect these pristine farm sites and even more for access to significant historical or estate properties that had never seen a metal detector before and believed that others around the country would feel the same way too."
The Sayre Barn on Meeting House Lane, sitting next to the museum's base at the Rogers Mansion, is full of farming relics and other antiques, but Edmonds said the barn looks more like "grandma's attic" than the museum it should, and the antiques need to be cataloged and displayed properly. "It's the perfect place to show Southampton's agricultural history," he said.
The barn was built in 1738 and quartered the horses of British soldiers during the American Revolution, Edmonds said. It doesn't have a proper foundation and has been slowly sinking into the ground in the four years since he's become the museum's executive director, and now some of the doors can't be opened and the timbers are rotting. The Sayre Barn was originally on Hampton Road, where the Sayre House, built in 1648, was torn down in 1910. Razing the Sayre House upset many village residents, Edmonds said. "It was the beginning of the preservation movement here in Southampton and the same year that the predecessor to today's Southampton Historical Museum, the Southampton Colonial Society, was incorporated as a non-profit."
Currently there exists very few, if any, places where a metal detecting enthusiast could potentially make a relic find such as a coin, button, buckle or other item that dates back to the period of pre and post Revolutionary America. Any item found within this time frame is typically a once-in-a-lifetime
discovery for these metal detecting hobbyists, according to Small who will be managing the program for the museum. Edmonds added, "We will be recording the specific locations of any significant finds that are made by the Team members for further examination and investigation by the museum's trustees."
"I thought what could possibly be a better way to achieve one of those rare win-win situations for both the Historical Museum and the metal detecting community than with this historic collaboration," said Small.
For more information go to www.southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org
, or call 631-283-2494 and leave a message for Barry Small.