Clarifying the museum’s role


To the Editor:

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is indeed the proud steward of the Gay Head Lighthouse, as reported last week in this paper. However, there were a few important inaccuracies in the story that require correction and clarification.

1) The Museum was the beneficiary in the mid-1990s of the hard work and preservation efforts for more than a decade of William Waterway and his Vineyard Environmental Resources Institute (VERI). He was a leader on behalf of the Vineyard community to get the three lighthouses (Gay Head, East Chop, and Edgartown) under local control through long-term leases with federal agencies. Waterway deserves great credit and has the Museum’s thanks.

2) The Edgartown and Oak Bluffs CPCs were very generous in providing funds to restore their lighthouses: Edgartown provided nearly $267,000 (much more than the $140,000 reported) from 2006 through 2009; the East Chop restoration was CPC-supported with nearly $138,000 in 2007-2008 from Oak Bluffs citizens.

3) We appreciate the current and past support of the Aquinnah CPC and their funds that have been used to address the short-term planned and emergency maintenance issues as well as “minor restorations.” This pool of public money is critical to the Museum’s annual stewardship responsibilities as we address some more serious longer-term issues relating to location and major restoration.

4) These longer-term issues have been, and will be, benefiting from the cooperative study of many groups, including but not limited to local civic entities, environmental, tribal, state and federal agencies. This process has already started and is ongoing. However, the Museum is not now, nor will it be in the near future, planning to make requests of any funding sources, private or public, for the relocation or major restoration of Gay Head Light. As reported, “…it will probably be decades before the lighthouse is in any real danger.” Therefore until we get much further along in our cooperative study, we have no plans for, and are not seeking funds from, Aquinnah or other Island CPCs for the restoration of Gay Head Light.

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum thinks all of the Island lighthouses — the three we steward and the two operated by others — are valued and worthy of collective support. We are able to open the Edgartown lighthouse seasonally because of a generous private gift and will take a business risk this summer to break-even on opening Gay Head five days a week. Derrill Bazzy, Richard Skidmore, and others mentioned in your article are supportive of the museum’s efforts to expand our audience and gain increased attention for the past history and current beauty of Gay Head Light. The museum appreciates all the support — past, present and future — in meeting its mission to preserving and presenting Island history.

David Nathans

Executive Director

Martha’s Vineyard Museum