It's Martha's Vineyard Museum now
The Martha's Vineyard Historical Society has a new public name - the Martha's Vineyard Museum - as it begins its 84th year with a new photographic exhibit and its most ambitious summer program ever.
Matthew Stackpole, executive director, announced at the June 16 members' reception that the society board had voted in April for the name change. "We did this," he said, "because we concluded the term 'museum' means something in our culture, and better communicates what we are and what we have here."
By way of explanation, he read from Senate Resolution 437, which designates 2006 as The Year of the Museum:
At its Edgartown headquarters, the Martha's Vineyard Museum's landmark Fresnel lens. File photo by Kathleen Doran
"Museums serve as landmarks that contribute to the livability and economic vitality of communities. Museums provide shared community experiences and meeting places, and serve as a repository and resource for each community's unique history, culture, achievements and values."
Mr. Stackpole told the assembly of members who had gathered for the traditional summer opening event: "We fail in our responsibility to the Island, the collection, and to history if we are the Island's best-kept secret. All of our programs, publications, exhibits, collaborations, and our staff are committed to us becoming the vital community resource this collection and history give us the opportunity to be."
Mr. Stackpole then invited his guests to tour the museum grounds, including a new exhibit, The Camera's Coast, on loan from Historic New England for the summer. It's a set of 70 images dating from 1870 to 1920, culled by curator William H. Bunting from one of the world's outstanding collections of historic maritime photographs.
The historical society's summer of programs actually opened early, with a celebration in May launching Arthur R. Railton's new book, "The History of Martha's Vineyard." The literary launches continue on Friday, July 7, when author Phyllis Meras will present her new biography of the editor and conservationist, Henry Beetle Hough. And on Saturday, July 8 at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury, Linsey Lee of the society's Oral History Center will present more of the beloved Islanders featured in her second volume of "Vineyard Voices" books.
The centerpiece of the summer for the Martha's Vineyard Museum is a collaborative project with The Yard entitled A Whale of a Week, with a full calendar of events from July 24 to 29. Lynne Whiting, education director for the historical society, and Wendy Tauscher, the new executive director of The Yard, have been working together on this project through the winter and spring.
Ms. Whiting is excited about the week of programs, and about the possibilities that open up when Island organizations work together. "Collaboration is so important on the Vineyard," she said. "I think that, more and more, we need to see our nonprofits banding together and supporting one another in terms of sharing audiences and resources."
Other highlights of the 2006 season:
* In an effort to involve the Island public more broadly with its programs, the museum will be holding three events called "Free on the First," on the first of July, August and September. On each of these days, a building on the Edgartown campus will be opened to the public at no charge, and special programs are planned.
* On six Thursdays from July 13 through August 17, the museum's education department has organized special programs for children. Writing workshops are featured in the mornings, and crafts in the afternoon.
* On four Wednesday afternoons this summer, the museum will present family programs called "Free at Five." There will be free ice cream, live entertainment and access to exhibits on July 12 and 26, and on August 9 and 23.
These and other programs of the Martha's Vineyard Museum are detailed on the historical society's new and expanded website, www.marthasvineyardhistory.org. For more information, call the society at 508-627-4441.
Nis Kildegaard is editor of The Messenger, the twice-yearly newsletter of the Martha's Vineyard Museum.