Roger Tory Peterson Institute officials are preparing to watch many of the works of Roger Tory Peterson be sold to the highest bidder.
Hundreds of pieces of Peterson's life work will be put to auction in New York City on Sept. 8 through Guernsey's Auctioneers. The sale, which is held by Peterson's estate, will also include Peterson's preliminary studies, including a section on Penguins, a family of birds he especially loved.
"We have the slides, we've got Roger Tory Peterson's nature picture films. All of those things are part of the Peterson's permanent collection," Baldwin said. "So what this auction is about is material that is owned by (Peterson's) stepdaughters. We have absolutely no quarrel with the fact that they legally and legitimately own all of this material. They can keep it or sell it, it's their property."
This image released by Rubenstein Public Relations is from Roger Tory Peterson’s “Field Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe.”
Peterson, who died in 1993, wanted his entire collection donated to RTPI to be used for education. His wife, Virginia Peterson, occasionally sent parts of the collection to the institute, instead of sending the entire collection of Peterson's work.
When Mrs. Peterson died in April 2001 the material not sent to RTPI was left to her daughters, Linda and Miriam Westervelt. Legal documents showed Mrs. Peterson had changed the agreement Peterson had with RTPI by retaining the majority of the photographic transparencies and majority of Peterson's original art.
"According to an agreement signed by Roger Tory Peterson, Virginia Peterson and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, if Roger pre-deceased Virginia, everything would go to her and then she would, over a period of time, donate or transfer the body of the life work to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. That was Peterson's desire," Baldwin said.
RTPI sued the Peterson estate in late 2004 to secure the artwork and photography that had not been transferred from the estate of Peterson's widow.
Following litigation, there was a division of Peterson's property. According to Baldwin, RTPI owns half of what it considers Peterson's most important photographs and work.
"It's probably cherry-picked certain of the ones that the stepdaughters own that will be, at least in part, sold at the auction," Baldwin said.
With the auction less than a month away, the items to be sold, which include many of Peterson's early works, are available for viewing on the auctioneer's website. Baldwin hopes a potential buyer would consider donating or willing an item to the Institute.
"We would like for this to be an opportunity for people to know what the Roger Tory Peterson Institute is dedicated to doing. That is to preserve and find good, educational purposes for the Peterson collection," Baldwin said. "We would certainly like to be able to bid on some of those items ... From a museum standpoint, we would love to have those items. But, Peterson Institute is not in any financial position to bid on any of those items."
Items up for auction from Peterson's estate can be found at liveauctioneers.com/auctioneer/663-guernseys. The website offers a chance to view items, as well as an opportunity to bid online.
"If there are private bidders who would or could attend this auction, we would be delighted if there were private individuals out there who are interested - or are willing - to acquire any of those pieces and then gift those pieces to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute," Baldwin said. "Or, perhaps enjoy that piece for the rest of their life, and then include the Peterson Institute in their estate plans."