Mission: The Martha's Vineyard Museum inspires all people to discover, explore, and strengthen their connections to this Island and its diverse heritage.

Transforming The Museum into a True Cultural Center

Since its early existence as the Dukes County Historical Society, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum has operated from a small cluster of buildings in the heart of historic Edgartown. Over the last century, the Museum has collected tens of thousands of artifacts that tell Island stories: paintings and literature, oral histories, tools and vessels, dance and music. Visitors today enjoy museum galleries, the historic Cooke House and the Carriage Shed, as well as one of the world’s rarest lighthouse lenses—the First Order Fresnel (c. 1854).

But as the Museum and our community have grown, a dramatic transformation is now underway. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum will move to its new permanent home at the historic Vineyard Haven Marine Hospital. Built in 1895, this majestic Vineyard landmark will become a modern cultural center that honors our past while affirming our commitment to the future: To inspire all people to discover, explore, and strengthen their connections to this Island and its diverse heritage. Situated on four acres of park-like land with spectacular views of Vineyard Haven Harbor and Lagoon Pond, the new Museum will feature state-of-the-art galleries, enhanced exhibits and public spaces, and improved collection storage.

Funds Raised

As of May 2018

$23.8 million

Funds to Raise

towards Project Launch

$7.2 million
Donate Now
There’s so much more potential for our Museum. With a new facility, more space, and more resources, the possibilities are endless. Lynne Whiting / Former MV Museum Education Director

Opening Eyes and Minds to the Island’s Diversity

The Museum reaches the Island’s diverse communities through educational programs, exhibits and publications. Our new location will ensure that the Museum’s objects, knowledge, stories and experiences can be forever shared.

Fresnel Gallery

A central pavilion and permanent exhibit space for the 1854 First Order Fresnel Lens, originally used in the Gay Head Lighthouse.

Classroom/Program Room

A gathering place designed for lectures, films and performances, as well as interactive education for all ages.

Hands-on History

Ever-changing objects and exhibits that will engage all five senses, in a room dedicated to the words “DO Touch!”


Gallery spaces with climate and light control for proper stewardship of sensitive objects and archives.

Collection Storage

Easy access and museum-quality climate control for thousands of fragile artifacts when not on exhibit.

Curatorial Work Spaces

A protected environment for behind-the-scenes conservation, preservation, cataloguing and exhibit preparation.

Museum Library

Quiet study space for students, scholars and authors to research Island history, genealogy and the vast Museum archives.

Office Space

A private area where staff and the Board can conduct the important work of keeping the Museum going and growing.

We’re not a museum focused on just one thing. We have archaeological artifacts that touch upon farming, whaling, the Revolutionary War—we’ve got it all. Warren Hollinshead / Former MV Museum President

Sustaining Our Heritage into the Future

Cultural Sustainability

Moving to the Marine Hospital will allow the Museum’s collections and programs to be shared with a far larger audience, as Island history assumes a more visible role in the cultural landscape. The addition of climate-controlled exhibit and storage space will create the opportunity for collection expansion as well as wider collaboration with other museums.

Natural Sustainability

Every effort has been made to incorporate resource-friendly materials, technology and design into the Marine Hospital project. The Museum will have the lightest possible environmental impact with its solar-ready roof, semipermeable pavers and parking lot filtration system, triple-glazed heat-saving windows and recaptured graywater for garden irrigation.

Financial Sustainability

Like most museums, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum cannot rely solely on earned income for its operating budget. Our campaign includes a plan to raise a $4.5 million endowment, whose investment income will support the Museum’s mission year after year, regardless of fluctuations in admissions, membership or donations.

I’ve always thought of the thread that connects the past to the present as being a frail and fragile thing. When we moved to the vineyard, it didn’t seem that way suddenly, and the museum is a big part of why that’s true. Geraldine Brooks / Author and Journalist

Helping our Youth Embrace Their Roots

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is building its future around education. Our commitment to lifelong learning—and to teaching Island history to every segment of the community—is as transformative as the Marine Hospital project itself.

Island youth can rightfully take great pride in their identity. But the standard public school curriculum does little to foster a sense of place. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum makes Island life relevant by tracing its roots and exploring its unique history within our nation. To young people visiting the Island, whether for the first time or as part of a lifelong tradition to come, the Museum adds depth to a happy summer experience.

The Museum’s existing collaborations with public schools, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Island Grown Schools, The Farm Institute, Head Start, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, historians and artists will flourish in our new Marine Hospital campus. And the creation of the Hands-on History Room and Classroom will vastly expand our child-friendly, interactive exhibits and children’s programming.

By dedicating $2.5 million of its endowment to education, the Museum will assure the health, vitality and growth of our education program for generations to come. A substantial portion of the education endowment has been provided by a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). We successfully matched this grant earlier this year.

Education is at the core of everything in the Martha’s Vineyard Community. The Museum teaches young people about our past, our diverse history, and the stories of all islanders. Charlayne Hunter-Gault / Journalist and Civil Rights Activist

Why are we moving?

As the Museum was looking for potential new sites, our primary objectives were: a) greater visibility and accessibility, and b) museum-quality, climate-controlled exhibition and storage space for our growing collections. Both of these elements are lacking in our current Edgartown campus. Another goal was to enhance the visitor experience both in the Museum buildings and on the surrounding campus. The Marine Hospital site in Vineyard Haven meets all of these criteria and then some.

The Vineyard Haven location is far more central, more visible, and more accessible than the current campus. The Marine Hospital is on four acres situated at the top of a hill with an expansive view, and will provide ample parking for cars and buses. We hope these qualities will help to position the Museum prominently as an Island-wide cultural center.

The historic 1895 building will accommodate functions that do not require stringent control of light and climate, while the new buildings on the campus will meet modern museum standards for exhibition and collection storage, allowing the Museum to lend and borrow artifacts from other institutions.

Finally, while meeting all of our objectives, the Marine Hospital makes the Museum the proud steward of a historically significant local landmark in a spectacular setting overlooking the Vineyard Haven Harbor and the Lagoon Pond.

When are we moving?

Construction will begin in fall 2017, and Phase 1 will take 12-15 months. When Phase 1 of the project is finished, the Museum will have a soft opening in 2018, having moved many activities and parts of the collection to the site. A larger, grand opening will occur in late spring/early summer 2019. For a complete timeline, click here.

What is Phase 1?

Phase 1 includes the renovation of the historic 1895 Marine Hospital, creation of a two-story pavilion to showcase our historic 1854 Fresnel Lens from the Gay Head Lighthouse, construction of a vehicles and vessels gallery for large objects, and the development of the sitework for the campus. Library and archives, education programs, some exhibits, and some collection storage can then be moved to the site. Phase 1 details can be found here.

What about Phase 2?

Phase 2 completes the Master Plan, which includes building a large exhibit gallery that includes a climate-controlled basement for museum quality collections. Master Plan details can be found here.

How much will the project cost?

Phase 1 is estimated to cost around $31 million. This includes $3.5 million for the purchase of the property and initial improvements, plus $16.5 million for renovation and construction. The remainder is for operations support, transition costs, and additions to the endowment. Project Needs are outlined here.

Total project needs for Phase 2 will range between $8 million and $10 million, depending upon the final scope and timing of the project.

When the Phase 2 is complete and all Museum functions have moved to Vineyard Haven, we expect to gain more than $3 million from the sale of the Pease House and the Library building. These proceeds will support the overall project costs.

Why do you need an endowment?

Most private institutions of learning have an endowment whose principal remains untouched, and whose investment income helps to stabilize and fund operations. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is no different. Admissions, memberships and donations are important sources of revenue, but an endowment is the best solution to long-term sustainability. In 2014, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a $500,000 Challenge Grant to the Museum, to help build a $2 million endowment that will support our education department. The Museum successfully matched this grant earlier this year. Learn more about the NEH Challenge Grant here.

What will happen to the Cooke House?

The Cooke House and its garden will become a stand-alone exhibit of early Island living and artifacts, open seasonally as it is today. Museum leadership is still exploring the idea of creating a larger garden space with room for outdoor programing. Read more about our plans for the Cooke House here.

Does the Museum own the Vineyard Haven property free and clear?

Yes. We were able to raise 100% of the funds needed for the initial purchase of the Marine Hospital site. We own both the Marine Hospital site in Vineyard Haven and the Edgartown campus, and have no debt on either property.

Are we preserving the Marine Hospital building?

Every effort is being made to preserve the historic characteristics of the original 1895 Marine Hospital building while making its functionality compatible with modern-day museum practices. To the extent that it is possible, this adaptive re-use will follow historic rehabilitation guidelines set forth for properties eligible for listing on the National Historic Register. We have retained an historic preservation consultant to advise throughout the planning process.

What about the brick building?

Added in 1938, the brick building provided space that was appropriate for hospital use (a kitchen, an X-ray room, an operating room) but would be extremely costly to adapt for museum purposes. The brick structure was demolished in July 2017. It will be replaced by a spacious and sunny courtyard, allowing the 1895 building more space to breathe and function as a community gathering space.

Can I put my name on something?

Absolutely! To learn about Named Giving Opportunities, please contact Heather Seger at 508-627-4441 X121.

I want to help. What can I do?

The public phase of the capital campaign was launched in June of 2016, and donations from the general community are vital to the success of the project. Becoming a member is also a great way to contribute and participate in the vibrant schedule of active programs happening every day at the Museum. To become a Museum member, please contact Teresa Kruszewski at 508-627-4441 X110.

The Museum also welcomes volunteers to help with our various programs. Some serve as docents, others help with special events or with summer visitors at the various properties stewarded by the Museum. For volunteer opportunities, please contact Katy Fuller at 508-627-4441 X123.

Supporting Our Vision: Act Now

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum would not exist without our special and diverse communities. We belong to the Island, and your support means everything to us. For further information and to make a donation by mail, contact Heather Seger at 508 627 4441 x121 or complete the form below.

We have made the decision to build a bigger and better facility to house our artifacts and tell our story. What a wonderful gift to ourselves, our families, and our community. What a great time to be involved. Chris Murphy / Fisherman and MV Museum Board Member

In the News

Board of Directors

Stever Aubrey, Chair // Barbara Alleyne // Elizabeth Beim // Robert Blacklow // Jeb Blatt  // Skip Finley // Julianna Flanders // David Foster // Deirdre Frank // Dale Garth // Peter Gearhart // David LeBreton // David Lewis // Phoebe Lewis // Calvin Linnemann // Mark Alan Lovewell // June Manning // John McDonald // Christopher Morse // Chris Murphy // Phil Regan  // Juliana Rogers // Paul Schneider // Richard Walker  // Cathy Weiss // Lana Woods // Denys Wortman

Donate Now