The Kelsey Archive

The Amagansett Historical Association inherited a collection of about 5,000 historic photographs from Carleton Kelsey, the Amagansett librarian and town historian, upon his death in 2005. In addition, there is a collection of about 3,500 negatives. Many of these images were published by the Association in 1986 in Amagansett: A Pictorial history 1680-1940). Some were used in a 1990 museum exhibit “Main Street Treasures” to support the creation of the Amagansett Main Street Historic District.

Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Association was able to bring two conservators from the Northeast Document Conservation Center to examine the collection and make recommendations for its conservation. The Board of Trustees resolved to create a suitable facility to house the collection; the original plan was to construct a climate­controlled enclosure within the existing 1978 Richard S. Jackson Carriage House.


As this plan was proceeding, including draft architectural drawings, Adelaide de Menil offered to donate a small house called the Phebe Cottage, built c. 1805. The offer was gratefully accepted, and the house was moved to the Association property in 2007.

The Board decided that turning the Phebe Cottage into the photo archive was preferable to the alternative plan. Fundraising began immediately, lent urgency by the discovery that the house needed substantial structural repair. A carpenter contractor having extensive experience with the restoration of historic structures, Richard Baxter, managed the work, guided by historic preservation consultant Robert Hefner.

Masonry, plumbing, electrical wiring, and a high-grade HVAC system were installed. The work was paid for by a continuous fundraising campaign that eventually raised over $400,000. Following delays by the Suffolk County Department of Health and the Town Planning Board, the building’s Certificate of Occupancy was issued in 2015. Computers and scanning equipment are in place.



Non-Residential Structures

General Scenes

A small group of volunteers sorted the images into four categories: People, Residences, Non­Residential Structures, and General Scenes, and protected them within archival enclosures .. The negatives are stored in a special refrigerator, in a separate building for security reasons. A summer intern, with skills and experience including familiarity with high-resolution scanning and PastPerfect museum software, spent the summer of 2017 working on the collection. She lived in the upstairs apartment in the Phebe Cottage. The Archive is open for individual or group visits by appointment, Call us at 631-267-3020 or email to to set a day and time. We will be happy to give you a tour.

The Kelsey Archive is now, thanks to public support, taking its first major steps towards professionally organizing, cataloging, digitizing, and conserving the collection. The Association intends to make the images available online for public viewing, research, and the purchase of images.

The next step will be the employment, possibly part-time, of a suitably knowledgeable person to continue the work begun by the volunteers and the intern. A fundraising campaign to finance this staff appointment has just begun. The project target is $75,000. Please help, and thank you!