Town Moving Forward With Duck Farming Exhibit In Flanders


If all goes according to plan, visitors to the Big Duck Ranch in Flanders next summer will be treated to the sights and sounds of a working duck farm—although virtual—in an exhibit set to open in a 19th-century barn.

Members of the Friends of the Big Duck, the organization dedicated to the historic site’s preservation, have long dreamed of such a venture, the group’s president, Fran Cobb, said last week.

In the fall, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs awarded Southampton Town a $5,000 grant, a major step toward the realization of that goal. And late last month, the Southampton Town Board voted to hire Michael Pintauro, a professional designer from Noyac, to help design the exhibit at a maximum cost of $2,500.

“To the average visitor who might stop there out of curiosity, they wouldn’t have any idea of what a duck farm looked like,” Southampton Town historian Zach Studenroth, who spearheaded the grant application, said on January 7. “That’s kind of the purpose of the exhibit—to give that added experience.”

He added that the Big Duck, built in 1931, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the property around it, on which sits a small building that now holds public restrooms, an old brooding barn and the Victorian barn. The exhibit will allow public access to the Victorian barn and also ensure its preservation.

The historian said the town made the right call in hiring Mr. Pintauro, whom he described as a young and eager designer willing to tackle the job.

“I was thrilled about the idea,” Mr. Pintauro said of the opportunity to design the Big Duck exhibit.

He noted that it is still in the conceptual phase, but that the idea is for the self-guided exhibit to present large images of duck farms with audio and video installations, as well as displays featuring the dozens of duck farm artifacts that Lisa Dabrowski, a member of the Friends of the Big Duck, has been collecting for years.

A 24-year-old Noyac native who studied architecture in college before switching to political science, Mr. Pintauro said drawing has always been a hobby. He hadn’t considered that it could be a career path before he began a curatorial position at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. That job expanded over time, and he now helps lay out the exhibits alongside the chief curator, Alicia Longwell, he said.

Mr. Pintauro explained that he uses a program called Google SketchUp to draft 3D models of exhibits. The project at the Big Duck Ranch will likely be a much smaller undertaking than he is used to, as he has worked for museums overseas in London and Australia, he said.

Before any work can begin on the exhibit, however, plenty has to be done to renovate the Victorian barn, which sits behind the Big Duck off Flanders Road. Mary Wilson, the manager of Southampton Town’s Community Preservation Fund, said the town has earmarked up to $214,000 in funding to repair the barn’s roof and walls.

Ms. Cobb said this week that the Friends of the Big Duck has raised upward of $10,000 over the years for the project, and that group members are excited to see it moving forward and eager for its completion.

Mr. Studenroth said he expects the renovations to get under way when the weather breaks so that the exhibit would be open to visitors next summer.

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