Museum opening opens history

Museum volunteer Ned Sternick, left, tells the Wolff family, from left, Charles, 1, Isabelle, 3, Missy, and Benjamin, about the Fresnel Lens. —Gabrielle Mannino

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum opened to the public Wednesday, and was met with excitement and joy as visitors young and old walked through the front doors for the first time.

Vineyard Haven residents Karen and Joseph Kenney were the first people in line for the museum, and were met with applause and cheers from museum staff as they walked in.

La Choza owner and Tisbury selectman candidate Seth Gambino was right behind the Kenneys, eagerly waiting for his ticket. Gambino said he felt “a little goosebumpy,” and was “super-excited” for the museum and all the work that led up to the opening.

The museum boasts a bevy of exhibits, rooms, and Island artifacts. Near the entrance is the museum’s gallery room, which features a rotating art exhibit. Down the hall is the the Aileen and Brian Roberts Gallery, where people can experience Island history through themes like farming, creating, and fishing. Historical trinkets like a typewriter used by author Dorothy West and a fiddle owned by musician Gale Huntington are exhibited.

Upstairs, the museum set up a room celebrating the Island’s musical history. Pictures and videos of Island concerts featuring Carly Simon and James Taylor can be seen near a collection of T shirts from Aboveground Records, Entrain, Che’s Lounge, and the 2008 Aquinnah Music Festival.

A tribute to the late Maynard Silva, a beloved blues musician who grew up in Oak Bluffs, sits in the center of the room. Silva bought his first harmonica at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, and years later played alongside blues legends Bukka White and Buddy Guy. The museum placed his guitar in a glass case next to a pair of his signature red Converse shoes.

One of the museum’s most mysterious pieces of history is the “Thunderbird Daybook,” owned by Matthew Mayhew. The book is a record of transactions from Mayhew’s store in Edgartown from 1780 to 1785, but is bound in cowhide and decorated with an “ancient symbol.”

There’s an entire wall dedicated to the Gay Head Lighthouse next to the lighthouse’s original 1854 Fresnel lens. On the bottom floor is an area dedicated to ships and shipwrecks, which is next to the kids’ area. Children can play with interactive exhibits, watch educational videos, and learn about the history of whales.

Catherine Keller and Freddy Rundlet, owners of the Look Inn in Vineyard Haven, were two of the people who got to the museum early for the grand opening.

Rundlet was especially excited for the museum opening. He loves history, and it’s another site he can tell his guests to visit. “I’m just looking forward to seeing it,” he said. “I’m a history buff.”

This article by Brian Dowd originally appeared on