Roger Tory Peterson InstituteBuilding Closed for Repairs

Jamestown, NY – December 7, 2020 – The Roger Tory Peterson Institute experienced a fire on December 3, at approximately 10:25 a.m.

The fire occurred in the attic, likely due to a faulty light fixture. There were no visitors in the museum at the time. All staff and maintenance personnel exited safely. The sprinkler system extinguished the fire quickly, resulting in minimal fire and smoke damage. Jamestown Fire Department arrived promptly to assist.

Indications are there is no structural damage to the building envelope. However, there was extensive water damage throughout much of the interior of the building. The museum store and its contents are a near total loss.

The Peterson Collection – the largest assemblage of Roger Tory Peterson’s artwork, films, books and related items – is safe and secure, thanks to quick action by Jamestown Community College staff, RTPI staff, the emergency response crew and volunteers from the Rotary Club of Jamestown. The collection is stored in alternative, temporary spaces within the building pending the restoration of the areas where the collection had been stored.

Nearing the end of the emergency response phase of the restoration – removing all water-damaged ceilings, walls, flooring and contents – RTPI will work closely with JCC to restore the building. Early indications are that the restoration may take several months to complete.

RTPI will be closed to the public until further notice. RTPI’s trails, however, will remain open to the public.

The fire and its aftermath will not deter RTPI from continuing with strategic planning. “We are making tremendous progress,” said Arthur Pearson, CEO, “toward the goal of relaunching RTPI with a bold vision in early 2021.”

Doug Schutte, RTPI’s board chair, added, “Like the proverbial phoenix, RTPI is going to emerge from this fire stronger than ever.”


The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History was founded in Peterson’s hometown of Jamestown, New York to preserve his lifetime body of work. Peterson, the only artist-naturalist to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is best known for his field guides. The first – A Field Guide to the Birds – published in 1934, sparked a worldwide movement to connect people with nature as never before. Peterson authored and illustrated dozens of guides – for birds, plants, insects and other natural flora and fauna – selling millions of copies and becoming an international ambassador for protecting our natural resources.

Today, the Peterson Collection anchors a robust exhibition schedule that also features the artwork or some of the world’s most revered nature artists. The collection is available to artists, researchers and scholars, and is used to anchor an array of education and research programs – all geared toward inspiring appreciation and protection of our natural world.


Contact: Arthur Pearson, Chief Executive Officer

Telephone: (773) 844-1022 (cell)