Indian Museum Taking Shape

Lawrence Cooke set up his Indian artifacts displays
Lawrence Cooke set up his Indian artifacts displays at the Montauk Historical Society’s craft fair last week to drum up interest and collect donations. Janis Hewitt

    Lawrence Cooke of Montauk is on a one-man mission to get a Montauk Indian museum built in the hamlet. He has the collection, which includes several of his own pieces as well as some from the collections of others, but he needs money to get the job done, about $500,000.
    A local storeowner donated $1,000 to the cause, which helped Mr. Cooke get T-shirts made and fliers printed. “I wish there were 4,999 more people like him,” he said this week in his front yard, where chickens clucked, tomatoes grew in tubs, and kayaks were scattered about.
    At the last two crafts fairs on the grounds of the Second House Museum, Mr. Cooke set up an information booth with several displays to collect donations. On hand was a rough-hewn, hand-carved canoe that he made. Used for people to toss dollar bills and coins into, it featured a face etched by Malcolm Frazier, who sculpted the Lost at Sea Memorial at the Montauk Lighthouse.
    “I’m appealing to the people of Montauk,” Mr. Cooke said. “If they want an Indian museum they have to pay for it.”
    He was set up near the area where he’d like the museum to sit, at the back of the Second House property. It would be attached to a small cottage there that is part of the property managed by the Montauk Historical Society, of which he is a member. The plan is being considered by the East Hampton Town Planning Board. Mr. Cooke applied for septic approval weeks ago from the Suffolk County Department of Health and said no news is good news.
    The cottage sits on a berm to the north and is used for meetings. A building would be attached to its west side and include a small gift shop, classroom space, and the museum’s exhibit, which would be comprised of photographs, ancient tools, arrowheads, steel points, hammerstones, pottery shards, and other items from private collections, some of which have already been donated to Mr. Cooke. Some of the items are now displayed in the Second House Museum.
    “I want people to walk down that path to Fort Pond and be able to envision what Montauk was like thousands of years ago,” he said, adding that his main goal is to honor the original locals. He also wants to provide a place that would honor the collections of old-timers after they die. “A lot of these collections get lost,” he said.
    The exhibits would be interchangeable to draw people from outside Montauk. Some of the items Mr. Cooke has collected have come from places across Long Island, as far west as Queens. There would be interactive exhibits, lectures, and various other events held at the site. Although the museum is currently just a vision, it is one that Mr. Cooke plans to see through. “But it can’t become a reality without real financial help,” he said.
    More information can be found at montaukindianmuseum.org.