M.V. Museum aims for December soft opening

Fresnel lens being dismantled for restoration.

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Construction of the new Martha’s Vineyard Museum at the site of the old Marine Hospital in Vineyard Haven is on track for a soft opening in mid-December, according to museum operations director Katy Fuller. The $31 million dollar project broke ground in late May 2017 after extensive planning and a final approval from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

On a recent hardhat tour, the Vehicles and Vessels building had already taken shape. Among its future occupants will be the Mayhew Peddler’s Wagon. West Tisbury voters agreed to dedicate $50,000 to restore the historic wagon at town meeting recently. The conservator will be B.R. Howard Associates from Carlisle, Pa., Fuller said. The firm will also restore the Edgartown Hearse, another future occupant of the building. Both the hearse and the wagon will be shipped off-Island this week.

The foundation for the the Fresnel Lens Pavilion is in. In addition to housing the famous 1854 Aquinnah Lighthouse lens, the pavilion will offer displays on lighthouses and navigation. A modest cafe will be situated at ground level, and shipwreck exhibits, along with a hands-on interactive lab for children, will flesh out the basement.

Lighthouse expert Jim Woodward and his team recently arrived in Edgartown, and have begun to disassemble the lens for restoration. Woodward will remove all 1,008 prisms from the lens, and take the gears and internal mechanisms of the lens back to his shop to work on, Fuller said.

The 10,290-square-foot former hospital is down to the studs, with new wiring and plumbing snaked throughout. The paneled interior doors have been stripped and deleaded, and are ready to be rehung. The elevator shaft is done, and restoration of the front porches is underway.

When finished, the revamped hospital will house a new library, classroom, and program space, a gift shop, offices, curatorial space, storage, a combination public meeting space and gallery, a permanent exhibit titled “One Island, Many Stories,” and a cellar exhibit called “The Cabinet of Curiosities,” slated to display decoys, ship models, and carpentry tools at the onset, Fuller said.

Throughout the winter and into spring, Museum and Collector Resource of Concord has been packing up the museum’s collections in preparation for the summer, when Carroll’s will transport them over to Vineyard Haven. In the autumn, after contractors have finished their work, exhibit consultants from Experience Design in Providence will assist museum staff with the display of the collection.

The soft opening pegged for mid-December will kick off with an open house party, Fuller said.

On or before the end of the year, the museum’s Pease House building and library in Edgartown are slated for sale, at $2 million each, to an undisclosed buyer. The museum will retain the Cooke House and its garden.