Museum Pieces: Another 100 years

Let’s begin the new year finding new ways to learn more about one another.

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“How little we know, I thought, of the people we live amongst.” —Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks is a Pulitzer prizewinning author who has a residence on Martha’s Vineyard. Her ability to capture the complexities of human beings is immeasurable. We walk around every day in our own little bubbles, living life from our own perspective, and perhaps on balance, we get along pretty well. But could there be more than meets our eyes?

I’ve been thinking about how much happens in a year. Each choice leads to another and another, and so on and so forth. How often do we pause to celebrate our achievements and build on the lessons we learned from our missteps? Entering another year unleashes varying emotions, but no matter what those are, a visit to a museum, especially a community museum like the M.V. Museum, can settle us into a state of equanimity, and help us continue forward on even stronger footing. In a museum we are surrounded by information waiting for us to take an interest, discover something new about something or someone that can help us restore our sense of place, self, and gratitude.

As far as the Martha’s Vineyard Museum is concerned, we are determined to learn from all that we missed during our first 100 years. We want to know more, represent this community more completely, by gathering important stories that haven’t been told. To do this requires your participation — we need you to guide us, make us aware and even more valuable to this Island. We are seekers and stewards of our intricate past, and we want this museum to be a place you feel inspired by, proud of, and part of. The more we know about one another, the more likely it is that we can live in a world where we respond with patience, kindness, and useful solutions. Museums are not obsolete, dusty, dead spaces. They are meant to be institutions of learning that are swirling with potential, ever-changing and alive.

Some of the ways the museum meets our mission is through the work of Linsey Lee, curator of oral history, who has been helping us learn more about one another for more than 30 years. Her effort to record the stories of some of the Island’s notable and not-well-enough-known individuals is a resource that cannot be over-celebrated. Receiving information via Vineyard Voices brings history to us directly from those who have lived it. There is a more accurate historical record with less speculation, rumor, and confusion. For example, Linsey interviewed the late June Manning about how her mother was active in the Aquinnah Women’s Club, and how they persisted until they received electricity in 1951. June stated, “They held all kinds of penny sales, potluck dinners, and fundraisers to assist in obtaining electricity in Aquinnah,” which changed so many things for them. Another way we reach our goals is by designing exhibitions that generate curiosity. We have one called “Clifford: Our Big Red Dog,” inviting children and adults alike to play, explore, and learn about Clifford and the man who brought him to life, Norman Bridwell, who called the Vineyard home for more than four decades. This exhibit opens on Jan. 27. Lastly, we have created a way for us to gather at the museum in more casual ways to share, appreciate, and make history. It’s called the Friday Reset; we hope to see you this Friday, Jan. 5, from 5 to 8 pm for food, games, crafts, access to lower-floor exhibits, and a special feature called “Ask Bow,” who will spend time in the cafe answering all your questions about Vineyard history that he can! 2024 begins our next 100 years, and we are ready to take on all challenges, celebrate all triumphs, and discover more wonderful things right alongside each other.

Visit mvmuseum.org for more about membership, programs, and exhibits. The M.V. Museum is celebrating 100 years as an ever-evolving institution committed to serving people who love the Vineyard, inspiring us to discover, explore, and strengthen our connections to this Island and its diverse heritage. Help us make our next 100 years all it can be.

In this column, count on anecdotal Island history, museum news, and happenings that will hopefully make you want to come up the hill for a visit. Questions, feedback, or a story you’d like to share? Please email me at lredington@mvmuseum.org