Museum Pieces: Connecting with the past

Stop and sit a while in the garden, or take a walk through history.


“… because you can’t take it all in at once.”  –Audrey Hepburn

The past matters to all of us, no matter our previously held feelings about museums, or how we engage with them. The M.V. Museum, like many across the country, is aware of how we are perceived, and invites us in to see just how much we are changing things. We are a community museum in every sense of the meaning. We want you to help us become the kind of place where all stories are told and held with the respect they deserve for telling a more complete history. Our bygone days are made up of perspectives, and the more we add into the record, the clearer it becomes. 

Why would you want to return to a place again and again? Because you can’t possibly take it all in at once, and it’s always changing. Life is like that. There is always so much to see, experience, and learn. With the kind of access we have today to, well, everything, being able to find the quiet places that allow us time and space to think about how we fit into it all is a true comfort. 

M.V. Museum is intentional about these spaces. We want you to come up the hill and add your energy to the surroundings. Come up and sit in the Rose Garden, created and named for famed poet and activist Rose Styron. There is a water feature, shady places to sit, lines of poetry curated by Rose Styron to read throughout. Walk to the front lawn with tea or coffee and something to nibble on while sitting at a table, taking in a hard-to-top Island view. Walk through the halls and rooms of the museum, visit the research library, and discover just how many stories we have preserved. It might just surprise and delight you. 

I was just reading an article written by our collections manager, Katie Van Riper, from the MVM Quarterly dated February 2023, about sailors’ valentines. These are mosaics of hundreds of shells glued to cotton batting in elaborate patterns that sailors would create for their sweethearts and wives as homecoming gifts. These works date to between 1830 to 1880, and were dubbed “sailors’ valentines” much later in the 1930s. Come to find out they weren’t, in fact, created by the sailors themselves (according to Van Riper’s article, which cited a 1960s story written by Judith Coolidge Hughes that uncovered the ruse). The proof was in the 35 types of shells consistently used, found only in the Caribbean, not to mention the number of other materials needed to create these mosaics, ro which sailors would not have easy access on their long voyages. Instead, the loving gesture was purchased from the Caribbean women who perfected these beautiful patterns. This is just part of what I learned from the article. She goes on to trace sailors’ valentine traditions right up to the present, and the layers of societal relevance.

Museum members receive these quarterly publications, information before anyone else about exhibition openings and programs, and can secure a highly discounted fee for special programs. If you have misgivings, or deeply held beliefs, about museums, come to our Island’s community museum and cultural gathering place, and see how you feel now, and how you can help us be what this community requires. MVM is all in with our storied, rare, and captivating Island — past, present, and on into the future. 


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 and summer season 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.