Martha’s Vineyard Museum receives $500,000 NEH challenge grant

Ann DuCharme, Martha's Vineyard Museum Education Director, shown with an Island Grown school collaborative class of second graders in Edgartown. Three teachers standing in the background are (left to right) Melinda Rabbit Defeo, Kaila Binney and Claire Lafave. — Photo courtesy of the MV Museum

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is the recipient of a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The grant, issued by the NEH Office of Challenge Grants, must be matched by $1.5 million in private contributions and will endow the museum education department, including the position of education director, the museum announced in a press release. Income from the endowment will support the operation, growth, and development of the museum’s humanities-based interpretive programs.

“This wonderful news couldn’t come at a better time,” Executive Director David Nathans said. “The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is at a moment of transformation, and is building its future around education. This NEH grant will act as both an endorsement and an incentive. It announces to potential matching funders that we are clearly in the education business to stay. What a great Christmas present for the children of the Island.”

In announcing the award, Andrea Anderson, Acting Director of the NEH Office of Challenge Grants, said, “Evaluators believed that the museum will increase public understanding of the humanities for residents and visitors alike. All agreed that the biggest beneficiaries will be the Island’s more than 2,100 public school children who will show gains in improved historical literacy and critical thinking skills. The Museum is an important cultural entity for the Island, and it has an opportunity to reach beyond its local audience to serve the many international visitors who come to Martha’s Vineyard each year.”

The museum maintains a strong presence in the Island’s public schools, where Education Director Ann DuCharme and staff provided 143 classes in museum-based education in the 2013-14 academic year, according to a press release. Specialized humanities programs are also offered for pre-K students, and the museum collaborates with the local chapter of Head Start to promote school readiness of young children from low-income families on the Island. Museum Conversations, which reaches elders at the various senior gathering centers, is having a successful first year with support from the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard.

In 2011, the museum purchased the former Vineyard Haven Marine Hospital overlooking Lagoon Pond as part of an ambitious project to enlarge its facilities, enhance its programs, and forge a more vital role in the Island’s educational and cultural life. Visit www.mvmuseum.org for more information about upcoming programming and exhibits.