Museum Pieces: Celebrating choices

The choices we make bring histories to life at the museum.


“Life is the sum of your choices.” —Albert Camus

Choices. There are too many sometimes, right? Some of us are better than others at making them. Those of us who are lucky enough to have choices should think about the ones we are making. Martha’s Vineyard Museum is a place we can go to get information about how things have been done, gives us the opportunity to build on them, adapt, or change things completely.

Sometimes looking back into our history as an Island, we discover that people who walked this earth knew more than we do today, and it might be time to slow down and take it all in. The Wampanoag people, for instance, still teach their children how to take care of the land — taking only what they need and giving thanks while taking it. They teach balance, humility, and community. As a community museum, we are continuously asking ourselves questions about how we can do better and be a more successful steward of our Island and its history.

One way we are doing that is by inviting people to speak about their experiences living here. Over this next week, we have some compelling programming from people who made decisions that set them on paths even they are astonished by. Tomorrow, Friday, May 3, at noon, there is a Lunch Lecture with Island resident Marsha Wynsryg. She will tell the story of how saying “yes” at a critical moment set her on a course that has impacted her life in ways she never thought possible. 25 years ago Marsha founded the African Artists Community Development Project to connect the Martha’s Vineyard community with the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home for Children with Disabilities in Zambia. She will discuss the project and the income initiatives she has designed for the mothers of the children at the Cheshire Home.

On Monday, May 6, at 5:30 pm, Susanna Styron and special guests will talk about Martha’s Vineyard during the winter of 1976. Susanna’s film, “Suspended Sentence,” explores Island life among a generation of people seeking peace and fulfillment in simplicity and community. From inspired artists to struggling fishermen and hardworking merchants, from a night at the Ritz Café to a day at the erstwhile Artworkers’ Guild, and a wind-whipped voyage on a scalloping boat, the film presents a portrait of a unique and diverse community from a bygone Vineyard era.

It will be exhilarating to hear these two women speak about their lives and the choices that got them to where they are today.

Looking ahead, Bow Van Riper’s “Ferries and Steamers of Martha’s Vineyard” series continues on Thursdays through May. On Tuesday, May 14, at 5:30 pm, it’s “Vineyard Voices of Land and Sea with Linsey Lee,” which will include many conservation-minded Islanders who have passed, as well as some who are still continuing their work. Wednesday, May 15, at 5:30 pm, there will be a chance to “Ask a Lighthouse Keeper,” with the former keeper of Gay Head Light, Richard Skidmore. He will share stories about the history and mystique of the light and its iconic Fresnel lens — each of which he has written about extensively. Richard will also guide us through the permanent Gay Head Light exhibition.

There are many reasons to come to the museum — sooner than later! The outdoor display of the Extinct Birds Statues will be moving to their next destination, after being with us for a year. Come on up and get your photos with them, and say one last goodbye, before they are gone. The “Clearly Misunderstood: C.F. Giordano” exhibition will come down after this Sunday, May 5, and Percy Cowan comes down at the end of May. We have new ones to look forward to, like “Vineyard Scene: Portraits by Peter Simon” opening May 11, and “Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad” opens on June 8.

We hope you come see us soon (if only to enjoy the view).

Visit for more information about upcoming exhibitions and events. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday year-round. Regular hours are 10 am to 4 pm; summer hours are 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is free to members; admission for nonmembers is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $5 for children 7 to 17, and free for children 6 and under. Islander rates are available. 



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