Museum Pieces: History lives here

From kids to grandparents, M.V. Museum is a place to play, know, and be.


Why visit a museum on Martha’s Vineyard during summer? Isn’t it time to “turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,” to paraphrase the Beatles tune “Tomorrow Never Knows”? There are so many other things to do — go to the beach, visit ice cream shops, have backyard barbecues, potlucks, go hiking, camping, and on and on. 

MV Museum gives you a long list of reasons! We are a community museum — we tell more complete and immersive stories about Island history. Everyone is embraced, and honestly, needed, in order for us to be the museum this community deserves. When you come up the hill to MVM, all ages can learn something exciting about this Island Mike Wallace refers to as “special, insular, quiet, healing, glorious.” Knowing just one fact about the locale you visit or live in can change your entire interaction with it. A sense of place, belonging, and of comfort for a few days, weeks, or always enriches our lives and memories.

The truth is that there is a new relationship to Island history to be had here every day. Let’s say you come with your grandchildren and spend hours in “Hands On History” — a room expertly curated to keep all minds engaged and soaking up all sorts of fun facts. It may even take two visits to thoroughly take it all in. On another day, you may come back for the “Clifford” exhibition, which will be up through Sept. 8. It’s the only indoor slide on the Island, and boasts three rooms filled with photos, memorabilia, and activities for all ages (not to mention the up-close-and-personal connection with a childhood icon and longtime Vineyard resident). You can also sign your kids up for our “Discovery Days” (there are still a few spaces left!). Our education team is always bringing fresh craft ideas, and scavenger hunts about the grounds and inside the building.

A trip up that picturesque hill is totally worth it for a leisurely stroll on the Lewis Lawn overlooking Vineyard Haven Harbor. While here, if you’re looking for an overview of Island history, visit the “One Island, Many Stories” room, which spills into the Pavilion where the story of the Gay Head Light is told and our famous Fresnel lens is on display. The recently opened “Sailing to Freedom” provides deep insight into the Vineyard and maritime connections to the Underground Railroad. Guest curator Dr. Timothy Walker will be giving a talk Friday at 2 pm about quests for freedom via boat. We have a Cabinet of Curiosities on the lower level with an installation titled “Ferry Tales.” An Island needs its ferries, and the history of ours is fascinating. 

There’s a new exhibition that will showcase the museum’s collection of famed photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, “Eisenstaedt’s Martha’s Vineyard.” Seeing the Island through the eyes of another is interesting — and through Eisenstaedt’s eyes, it’s wonderful; you take away a deeper Island perspective.

There are outdoor events all summer long. Be part of history by attending our first annual “Global Rhythms Concert Series.” It brings different strands of culture and a rhythmic vibe of our Island each Tuesday at 5:30 pm. Bring a picnic, beverages, blankets or chairs, and the whole family. We have a couple of nighttime “Naked Eye Stargazing” events with expert Mark Alan Lovewell, who will point out constellations and tell their stories. There will be poetry readings in the Rose Styron Garden; on July 10, come for “MVM Day: A Community Celebration” with scavenger hunts and crafts, music and special food offerings for all to enjoy as we celebrate our birthday. We will also present a series of talks at our Edgartown property, the Cooke House. “Tales of Edgartown,” each Monday at 4 pm, July 8 through August 12; the complete list of speakers is available online. Summer can be even more memorable and meaningful with a trip to M.V. Museum. We hope to share a moment with you.

Visit for more information about upcoming exhibitions and events. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday year-round. Summer-season hours: Tuesday, 10 am – 7 pm, Wednesday through Sunday, 10 am – 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.