Martha’s Vineyard Museum launches public campaign with free open house

Master plan for new museum location - Courtesy of Martha's Vineyard Museum

Wednesday, June 29, marks the launch of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s public campaign to restore the 1895 Vineyard Haven Marine Hospital. According to a press release, when renovated, the 121-year-old historic structure will serve as a new home for the century-old museum. The public is invited to enjoy a tour of selected rooms in the building and refreshments at an open house that day from 5 to 7 pm.

The museum will simultaneously unveil a new logo, a new mission statement, and a new public face to a campaign that has quietly raised $13 million from board members and close supporters. By opening the campaign to the public through high-profile events, newspaper ads and mailings, the museum now invites the community to help raise $3 million toward the $18.5 million needed to build the first phase of the project, as well as provide a head start on the second phase.

The project’s first phase will consist of the complete renovation and site work of the Marine Hospital. The building will provide three large exhibit galleries, curatorial work space, a classroom and a research library. On four acres on a grassy hill overlooking the Lagoon, the Marine Hospital will also be a parklike setting for outdoor events and general enjoyment by the Island public. Phase 1 of the project is scheduled to break ground in early 2017, with an opening date of summer 2018.

The second phase, consisting of entirely new construction, will complete the museum’s master plan. A pavilion will be added to the 1895 portion to house the 1854 first-order Fresnel lens (originally used in the Gay Head Lighthouse); a multisensory room for children; spacious exhibit galleries and collection storage that meet contemporary museum standards of light and climate control; and a barnlike exhibit hall for large objects such as whaleboats and carriages.

The museum has been under new leadership since the arrival of executive director Phil Wallis in February 2016. After a long family history of visiting the Island, and with an M.B.A. from Wharton, Wallis most recently worked as the executive director of the National Audubon Society’s Pennsylvania office. His experience with two major capital projects, as well as in real estate and land management, will shape and benefit the museum’s Marine Hospital project and the organization’s path in the future.

“We are transforming this organization from top to bottom,” he says. “This is not just a museum, but an educational institution that reaches into the schools and the broader community. There are so many ways to connect with this Island, and especially its natural heritage, that we’ve barely begun to explore. The Marine Hospital is the beginning of the next chapter.”

Martha’s Vineyard Museum Open House: Wednesday, June 29, 5 to 7 pm, 151 Lagoon Pond Road, Vineyard Haven. Free to all.