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History Center welcomes new archivist: Kaitlin Ketcham has deep Island roots

The newest member of the team engaged in cataloging and preserving the historical and cultural treasures of Shelter Island is Kaitlin Ketcham, who had a personal connection to Shelter Island long before donning her professional archivist hat and walking through the doors of the History Center just weeks ago.

Built around and fortifying the 18th-century Havens House that is the home of the Shelter Island Historical Society, the History Center on South Ferry Road is the repository of artifacts of the life story of the Island, from the earliest Indigenous residents to European settlers and African American slaves and indentured servants.

Islanders worked the fields, fished for sustenance and to earn a living, went to sea and took to the skies.

The evidence of these endeavors — documents, photos, antiques and art works — is stored safely amid the Center’s walls, but the Society plays a critical role in cataloging what has been entrusted to it, providing the public safe access, and forming the narrative to help generations understand what has come in the decades and centuries before.

For Kaitlin Ketcham, archival studies was the field she chose to pursue her graduate degree at Long Island University after earning her undergraduate degree in music education there. Working on Shelter Island wasn’t on the horizon then, although she had great memories of the Island going back to her childhood.

Growing up in Cutchogue, she had summer visits and holidays with her grandparents, Dick and Elaine Ketcham, who were real estate agents for the Shelter Island Real Estate & Insurance agency and co-owned Ketcham’s Corner for a time — where the Tuck Shop now stands.

“They loved to golf and were members of the Gardiner’s Bay Country Club,” she recalls.

Ms. Ketcham developed her own interests in outdoor activities on the Island, attending Camp Quinipet some summers. “Some of my favorite memories from camp include kayaking around Coecles Harbor/Congdons Creek,” she said.

In addition to having fun and enjoying adventures on the water, she recalls Quinipet as a place where her horizons were broadened, by “the amazing opportunity to make friends from around the globe.”

Although she focused on archival studies as her academic pursuit, little did she know she would eventually practice her profession in the place where she’d spent childhood summers.

“Finding a position on Shelter Island was an unexpected surprise,” she said, “but I am so glad I’m here.”

She said she’s excited to be returning to her roots, and exploring the history of an island that has always held very fond memories for her. When she is not working with history, she can be found rock climbing, gardening, writing, painting, teaching music and chess, and stargazing — and no better place than the Island to look to the skies for inspiration.

Asked if there were unique challenges or opportunities about the Shelter Island History Center and the archives she will be working with, she responded, “The Shelter Island History Center is an amazing opportunity in and of itself. The Island has such a wonderfully long, rich, and diverse history that makes it a joy to learn and explore.”