Opening and Film Tonight at the Lighthouse

A simulated beach scene is the backdrop for a display of vintage surfboards and memorabilia at the Oceans Institute and Surf Museum at the Montauk Lighthouse. Janis Hewitt

The Ocean Institute and Surf Museum, a new feature at the Montauk Lighthouse Museum, will have a formal opening tonight at 6:30.

The museum had its beginnings on a beach in 2013. Russell Drumm, a surfer and an East Hampton Star senior reporter; Bettina Stelle, a surfer who has curated exhibits for the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum, and Jimmy Buffett, the singer and surfer, decided that Montauk needed an educational facility that would focus on the force of nature and how it affects the ocean, geography, geology, weather, and marine life.

The 1,000 square-foot building that is wedged just east between the lighthouse and a World War II fire station, built in 1897, was chosen as the site. The building was used in the past to house a fog horn siren, and later for storage. A few years ago, when a deck was constructed down a wide grassy hill from the Lighthouse Museum, Greg Donohue, Dick White, and Betsy White, members of that museum and of the Montauk Historical Society, talked about utilizing the awe-inspiring site for something more.

In February 2014, Mr. Drumm reached out to the historical society and the Montauk Lighthouse Committee, and all agreed the small building would be the perfect place for the something more. Mr. Donohue became the liaison between the two groups. As the lighthouse is a National Historic Landmark, any work done on it would have to stay within its original footprint.

A contractor was hired to replicate windows and doors, using the original plans that have been kept in storage at the lighthouse. The interior has received a fresh coat of white paint. The cement floors are a pale gray, mimicking the color of the surrounding Atlantic on a stormy day. On a day with waves, visitors can watch the surfers at Turtle Cove from the windows to the west.

Inside, a collection of surfboards dating back to the 1960s, on loan from Tony Caramanico and Charlie Bunger, both notable surfers, is on display, as is a simulated beach scene with a sandy floor, beach chairs, and male and female mannequins, the females in bikinis and the males in board shorts. A retro transistor radio is perched on beach towels strewn on a beach chair. Vintage soda bottles and a small movie camera help date the scene.

Track lighting has been added to the ceiling. On the walls hang plaques tracing the history of surfing in Montauk, some of which highlight long-ago plans by East Hampton Town officials to ban surfing in the hamlet and letters to local papers opposing the ban.

Eventually, when more money is raised, the Ocean Institute will have revolving exhibits, including a virtual sea aquarium that will allow visitors to see what is under the water right outside. Donations are still sought for the project, which is expected to cost up to $200,000. For now, the surf museum will be open limited hours when the Lighthouse Museum is open.

Tonight’s opening event will be held outdoors on the lawn overlooking Block Island Sound. Admission is $25 for adults, free for children. Martine and Juan are the D.J.s. Drinks have been donated by the Montauk Brewing Company and food will be available from the Sea Bean, a catering truck. There will be a screening at 9 p.m. of “Five Summer Stories,” a surf film.