MV Museum celebrates $20 million milestone

Gala focused on the future.

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With its future home as a backdrop and some of its donors filling a tent overlooking Lagoon Pond, representatives of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum celebrated hitting the $20 million mark in fundraising for the $24 million project.

“Summer is back and so are you, thank you,” Phil Wallis, the museum’s executive director, said to the crowd of 435 people at the 19th annual Evening of Discovery. The museum has raised $4 million in four weeks, he said, calling the donors the “catalytic converters” of the project, and mentioning many of them by name.

The theme was supposed to be “100 years in the future,” and guests were invited to wear an outfit that might be popular in 2117. If fashion is any indication, the Vineyard will look much the same as it does in 2017.

There were a few brave guests who got in on the theme. Carolyn Wallis, the director’s wife, sported a sparkling gray wig, and Jody Angevin of Edgartown wore an iPhone strapped to her hat with a sign that read, “Surgically wired for life.”

“I thought it would be fun,” she said.

There was more than enough food, and what was left over would not go unused: “This is a zero-waste event,” Katy Fuller, operations director for the museum, said to cheers. “We’re composting everything. It’s going to all the farms on the Island.”

Mr. Wallis said he tried to envision what the former 1895 Marine Hospital would look like in 2117. He predicted the Canada geese and wild turkeys would still be there, and said he hoped the youth of the Vineyard would still soak in the sights and surroundings of the Vineyard without the aid of technology. The educational message of “touching the past and shaping the future” would remain, he said.

There was a touching moment as young Declan Diriwachter, a student at the Vineyard Montessori School, helped museum education director Ann DuCharme recount a project on the heath hen. “There are no live ones,” he told the crowd. “They’re extinct.”

His father, David Diriwachter, a former high school teacher, said he was impressed by the project. “How do you engage first graders for 18 weeks on a dead bird?” he said. The museum did, and it was “amazing” what the students retained, he said.

Stever Aubrey, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, thanked those gathered for their donations, and urged them to continue to help the museum move forward. “We’re in a very exciting, transformative time for the museum,” he said.