Island history in the great outdoors

M.V. Museum campus reopens to the public.

The M.V. Museum will reopen this week for an outdoor-only experience. Starting June 30 for members and July 3 for the general public, visitors will be permitted to browse exhibits on the museum’s lush campus, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting health and safety standards, the museum has closed off its main building, and made a number of protocol adjustments. “It’s going to be different and the same, all at the same time,” said Katy Fuller, M.V. Museum director of operations and business development. “Visitors will be greeted outside under a small tent in our courtyard, by the same friendly faces they would have seen inside,” Fuller said.

A face covering from home will be required of anyone who interacts with a staff member or participates in a tour. Visitors are required to practice social distancing, made easier by six-foot indicators, painted on the museum’s lawn by the staff. Hand sanitizer dispensers will be stationed throughout the campus.

Although the museum’s main building will remain closed, guests can still enjoy a number of outdoor attractions. Tours will be offered at 11 am and 2 pm daily, starting July 7. Guests are required to reserve their spot ahead of time, as only 10 people will be allowed per tour. A link to the sign-up sheet can be found here or at mvmuseum.org.

Several of this summer’s exhibits will be new to the public. The “Sun-Bird,” crafted by Island artist Tim Laursen, imitates the motion of a bird in flight. The metallic sculpture boasts a seven-foot wingspan, which flaps through the power of solar energy alone.

The Rose Styron Garden is another new addition to the museum. The space was designed and created by stonemason Lew French, in honor of Island poet Rose Styron. “The Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club has been doing all of the planting, which compliments Lew’s work,” Fuller said. “Because it’s dedicated to Rose, and one of things she’s known for is her poetry, there’ll be little plaques of her poems inserted throughout the garden.”

One exhibit visitors may recognize is the M.V. Museum’s catboat, Vanity. Rather than sailing through Edgartown Harbor, Vanity will be docked on the museum campus this summer. “We turned it into a mini-exhibit under a tent,” Fuller said. Now visitors can admire Vanity up-close, and discover the boat’s rich history on the Island.

The M.V. Museum is also making use of its tall, front-facing windows. The “Inside-Out Museum” will showcase works of art through the glass, allowing visitors to admire them without entering the buildings. Three exhibits will be on display, including two by year-round Islanders. “Everyday Heroes: Photographs by Randi Baird” and “Pandemic: Drawings by Jackie Baer” each highlight elements of the COVID-19 pandemic. Baird’s photographs capture the individuals who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, and examine “how the definition of who those heroes are has changed,” Fuller said.

Baer, who is 87 years old, created her drawings while battling COVID-19. “While she was in quarantine, she started doing these daily drawings, mostly just to pass the time. She’s done more than 40 of them now, so we’re going to show some of those drawings,” Fuller said.

Completing the “Inside-Out Museum” is “The Race Card Project,” started by seasonal resident and journalist and former NPR host Michele Norris. According to Fuller, the M.V. Museum asked Island students to describe their thoughts, observations, and experiences regarding race using just six words. These words will be displayed boldly on cards within the museum.

“We felt this was a good way to start,” Fuller said of “The Race Card Project.” “I hope it sparks healthy conversation and discussion. That’s what we need to do — keep talking about it, and then move to action.”

The M.V. Museum staff hope to reopen their buildings at some point this summer, but have no set date for a full reopening. “Museums are part of phase three, so we aren’t technically allowed to open until at least July 6,” Fuller said. “We’re figuring out how it would work right now, in terms of the flow of guests through the building.”

In the meantime, members and nonmembers alike are welcome to the M.V. Museum campus, even if only to enjoy its beauty. “If you want to come up, that’s fine. We don’t mind. This isn’t our campus, it’s the Island’s, so certainly use it,” Fuller said.

As for visits during off-hours, the museum director issued a lighthearted warning: “You can come up when we’re not open, but I can’t guarantee the irrigation won’t turn on on you,” Fuller said.

For more information on the M.V. Museum’s new protocols and exhibits, visit the website at mvmuseum.org/reopening.