Huntington Historical Society Gets A Fresh Face

Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano, the Huntington Historical Society’s new director, sits at Oheka Castle, one of her favorite Huntington Historical landmarks.

Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano, the Huntington Historical Society’s new director, sits at Oheka Castle, one of her favorite Huntington Historical landmarks.

Huntington native Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano took the reins as the Huntington Historical Society’s Executive Director on Monday.

“I’m really excited to be with at the Historical Society; it’s such an important organization…I grew up here, I know what makes this town so wonderful and in part it’s that historical character. I’m just excited to share that with people,” she said.

Fortunato-Napolitano, who is 32, lends a fresh face to the organization, but no lack of experience. Over the past decade, she has worked at The Museum of the City of New York, the Seamen’s Church Institute, The Huntington Chamber of Commerce, the Huntington Rural Cemetery, the Long Island Children’s Museum, and the Huntington Town Historian’s Office, largely in development and programming capacities.

“It was kind of a natural progression. I started at the Town Historian and then got involved with the historical society in 2009 doing fundraising and became the director of operations in 2011,” she said.

Indeed, working in history and historic preservation has been a natural progression of Fortunato-Napolitano’s whole life. Her father attended the Eastern Military Academy at Oheka Castle, making the castle’s history a part of growing up, she said. She had her sweet 16 at Coindre Hall and later did a project on the Hall’s Boat House restoration as an intern for Senator Schumer. 

“I grew up in Huntington, I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve been fascinated by the Gold Coast Mansions,” she said.

Fortunato-Napolitano, who wrote her undergraduate thesis on four of Huntington’s mansions, said that her dedication to preservation began during a summer at Oxford while she was in high school. 

“I was struck [by the fact that] we would learn things in the classroom and then go outside and look at them,” she said.

She added that there were opportunities for education like that in Huntington, particularly with the current archive expansion, which involves building a larger archive facility to display the Historical Society’s extensive collection. She hopes to engage the community more deeply in the Society’s programs and collection, she said.

“I would really like to see the Historical Society become an integral part of the community and I’d like to do a lot of outreach and expand public programming… I want us to be one in the same with the community, for people to know us and what we’re doing and be involved,” she said.

Fortunato-Napolitano replaces Linda Walch, who served in the position from April 2013 through March 2015.