Museum Pieces: Discover the Island

The summer is filled with exhibits and programming for every age this summer.


“My mother believed that a North Atlantic summer was one of the most magical gifts in life.”  –Caroline B. Kennedy

Martha’s Vineyard is a mystical place full of lore, thanks to its first people, the Wampanoag, to the many inhabitants of the Island up to the present day. To have a home here nowadays is daunting to obtain, and a struggle to sustain. Sometimes not even blood, sweat, and tears are enough to hang onto generational homesteads. The Island is changing, but the more we know about our past, the better we can steer the future. 

Martha’s Vineyard Museum has been collecting evidence of Island life over the centuries through artifacts, letters, photographs, and, of course, stories in print and oral histories. The more familiar we are with where we walk, talk, and laugh, the more meaningful it all becomes, and the more we will care about what happens to it all. Honestly, have you stopped recently to let it sink in how lucky we are to be here? We all experience heartbreak and fear. But to experience these moments in a community like Martha’s Vineyard is a kindness from the universe. 

Come to the museum and drift through the halls, where an inspiring story is merely a glance away. It’s a simple way to lift your spirits. Become a member, and you have the run of the place anytime you wish. Currently, the Adele H. Waggaman Community Gallery is sharing a chapter in the life of famed photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt through August 25. You will experience the Vineyard from his perspective. Bring your kids or grandbabies to experience the “Clifford” exhibition, or “Hands-On History.” Sign them up for Discovery Days to surround them with Island history during summer vacation. We have something for everyone, at any age.

Tomorrow at 5:30 PM, come for what will be an enlightening talk with Island residents Richard Taylor and Tom Dresser about their book, “Black Homeownership on Martha’s Vineyard: A History.” Taylor says, “Race has played a major role in who can and cannot own real estate in America. Our book explores the impediments, challenges, struggles, and triumphs of the African American population on Martha’s Vineyard, and how they navigated against these forces to own property as early as the 19th century. We share the names of some of the families, institutions, and organizations that have worked to ensure that the Vineyard has been — for a very long time — a place where African Americans have not only owned property, but their generational roots paved the way for a deep sense of belonging and community, as well as legacy property ownership.” 

Registration for all Martha’s Vineyard Museum programs is encouraged, but we also hope you will just show up and see what’s happening. Come to one of our “Tales of Edgartown” talks at the Cooke House in Edgartown some Monday afternoon at 4 pm, through Monday, August 12. Light refreshments will be served. Each Tuesday at 5:30 pm, stretch out on the courtyard lawn on your blanket or chairs for the Global Rhythms Summer Concert Series. Bring a picnic or enjoy our cafe offerings from Aquila MV. On July 18, from 5:30 to 7 pm, we invite you to the M.V. Diversity Coalition’s third annual Truth & Joy Celebration. Susanna Styron will be back for an encore showing of her film “Suspended Sentence.” This time she will be in conversation with NPR’s Mara Liasson. Please get your tickets for this — it sold out last time! 

And on August 3, it’s “Deco Dreams.” So get your flapper outfits ready! 

No matter what you decide to do this summer, we hope a visit to the museum will be on your agenda. Come up the hill for the view, the sea breeze, the serenity of the Rose Garden, the soul-settling quiet of a momentary escape from the summer bustle. 

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.