“It’s Really Happening!”

Despite Mother Nature and the Steamship Authority’s best efforts to slow progress, the new Martha’s Vineyard Museum is humming along at the old site of the former Marine Hospital. We’ve had lots of progress as the calendar turns from winter to spring. Let’s take a tour…

Vehicles and Vessels

Just like that, we have a building! Last time we checked in, the foundation had been poured for the new home for our largest objects in the collection. The Vehicles and Vessels building is now entirely constructed. The next step for this building is to bring in the ceiling trusses, which will allow us to remove all the temporary wall supports that are currently protecting the building from Mother Nature’s relentless northeast winds. This building was constructed earlier in the construction timeline to be used as a storage facility for materials this summer and as a place for job site meetings in the warmer months once the contractor’s trailer is removed for necessary site work. We can’t wait to let the curators loose on it, and see the building come to life.

Construction of the Vehicles and Vessels building was captured on our time lapse web cam. We encourage everyone to log on and play around with the calendar dates to see it being built.

Drone shot showing the newly constructed Vehicles and Vessels building behind the 1895 Marine Hospital. Taken on March 20th. Courtesy of Denys Wortman.
Exterior of the Vehicles and Vessels building on February 28th. Interior with temporary supports on March 9th.
The Ulysses Mayhew Peddler Wagon, one of the objects that will move to the new Vehicles and Vessels building.

Two of the objects that will be featured in this new building are the Edgartown hearse, which will be restored this summer using Edgartown CPA funds generously approved by the residents of Edgartown at last year’s town meeting, and the Ulysses Mayhew Peddler Wagon. The hearse or “undertaker’s wagon” was given to the town in 1830 and used for many decades. Ulysses Mayhew was the original owner of Alley’s General Store. Restoration of the Peddler’s Wagon is on the warrant at next week’s West Tisbury town meeting, and we would so appreciate the residents of West Tisbury supporting its historic restoration. To learn more about its importance, click here.

Fresnel Lens Pavilion

The Fresnel Lens Pavilion can finally be seen above ground! Just yesterday a large crane moved steel into place now that the foundation walls have all been poured. Dirt was being backfilled around the foundation as well, and you can now walk through the 1895 Marine Hospital into the Fresnel Pavilion from the basement. We expect to see a lot of progress on this addition in the next few weeks and have moved the time lapse web cam to focus on its construction during this time period.

Progress on the Fresnel Lens Pavilion from February 28th – April 4th.

Basement Progress

Compact collection storage area before the concrete was poured March 14th.

One of the places that has seen the most progress in the last month has been the 1895 Marine Hospital basement. The brick was all repointed, and the floor dug down to make more room for collection storage. All of the mechanical equipment has begun to be installed, bathrooms are being plumbed, and metal door frames are even starting to go in. One of the most exciting days in March was the day we had the concrete floor poured. These images show long columns where concrete was not poured. These are tracks for the future collection storage racks. The storage shelves will be able to move back and forth creating compact storage that will be able to house more of the MVM collection. Everyone looks forward to housing the collection in this new space!

We have a floor! March 19th.

Moving Upstairs

Future MVM Library on the second floor of the Marine Hospital.

On the first and second floors, there is one acronym that best summarizes the past month: HVAC! The HVAC crews have been hard at work running ducting to every room in the building. Electricians have completed the wall and floor rough electrical allowing for spray foam insulation to be sprayed next week. Fire protection has been installed in the attic and second floor and has begun in the first floor. The new staircase that will run from the basement to the attic was constructed and installed making it a lot easier to travel between the floors. The original 1895 staircase has been saved for access between the first and second floors, but all the railings and banisters have been covered to protect them during construction.

We’ve also seen the historic doors saved from the original 1895 Marine Hospital being restored. These doors will be re-installed with their original transom windows and used throughout the building. Rick Convery and his crew are making them all look beautiful!


Original 1895 doors before and after lead paint removal.

Marine Hospital Exterior

Shingling on the upper half of the Marine Hospital is complete. The clapboard siding on the lower half of the building is slowly getting a good sanding. The roof is being prepped, and if Mother Nature cooperates, will be completed this month. The original porches on the front of the building have also been getting much needed restoration work. The porch railings were badly rotted in some areas, but are being fully restored. We are so appreciative of the residents of Tisbury for supporting their restoration with CPA funds. It is fascinating to see the new wood perfectly integrated with the original porch railings.

Side porch restoration work underway. April 4th.

More Hard Hat Tours!

We had a great first public hard hat tour and have added more to the calendar. Our next tour will take place on Friday, April 13th at 4pm. Reservations are required, and participants must be prepared to wear hard hats and sign insurance waivers. We will have additional hard hat tours on May 11th, June 8th, and July 13th. To reserve a spot, call Madison at 508-627-4441 x119.

Preparations Continue in Edgartown

Meanwhile back in Edgartown, we’ve been doing a lot of cleaning, organizing, and preparing for the move. The professionals from Museum and Collector Resource who are packing, moving, and unpacking the collection will be back next week for further preparations. The disassembly of the 1854 Fresnel Lens will begin at the end of the month, so the mechanisms and prisms can be properly cleaned and restored before being reinstalled in Vineyard Haven.

The galleries will re-open to the public on Saturday, May 26th and be open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5pm through September 3rd. The Cooke House will open at the Summer Opening Party on Friday, June 22nd. The Research Library will remain closed all summer as it will house the Fresnel Lens. Research appointments can be made by calling Bow Van Riper at 508-627-4441 x115. After Labor Day, we will close operations in Edgartown to move to Vineyard Haven. We appreciate everyone’s understanding during this time of transition. It’s certainly an exciting time to be involved, and we’re so appreciative of everyone who is coming along on this journey!


Mother Nature Shows Us Who’s In Charge


January was a month of fighting historic low temperatures and a bit of the white stuff, but steady progress continued on the site.

On the inside of the 1895 building, interior framing finished, and plumbers and electricians began their work. The basement was also excavated further creating higher ceilings to store the MVM collection. Just this week, gravel was poured in the basement, and concrete will soon follow. It’s getting easier to imagine the finished rooms and their future uses now that all the interior framing is complete.

IMG_1234.jpgOutside, siding work continued with additional shingling being installed on the upper half of the building. The original 1895 Marine Hospital had shingling as well. Although the frigid temperatures delayed the full excavation of the Fresnel Lens Pavilion and the Vehicles and Vessels large object building, a slight warm up late in the month allowed the excavators at Keene to come and slowly dig out the frozen ground. Footings are being formed for both additions with the first concrete delivery for these structures coming next week. A time lapse camera is now live, which will document the construction of these two new buildings. If you’d like to see it, click here. (Make sure to play around with the calendar settings as time goes on to get the full time-lapse effects!)


For those of you missing the web cam that overlooks the Lagoon, we certainly plan to re-install it at some point. Right now there isn’t electrical and wifi access in the attic to do so during construction. We miss it too!

Preparations ContinueIMG_1309.JPG

Back in Edgartown, the staff is very busy doing a lot of winter cleaning and organizing of everything that isn’t part of the Museum collection. Just today, while cleaning out the side eves of boxes, staff discovered visitor logs to the then “Dukes County Historical Society” from the 1940s-1960s. Although a tedious process to go through so much “stuff,” it is fun to see how the organization has evolved in its almost hundred-year existence.

Later this month, the team from Museum and Collector Resource (MCR) will be arriving to begin professionally packing the collection for the eventual move. Lampist Jim Woodward, aka “The Lighthouse Guy,” will be coming to the Island in April with his team to disassemble the 1854 Fresnel Lens (including all 1,008 prisms!), and restore it. To learn more about this process, click here. The Lens will be one of the last objects installed at the new Museum late this fall.

In addition to cleaning, staff is spending A LOT of time planning this winter. How will school field trips work to the new site?  How will the volunteer program be run? When will tours be offered? What kinds of programs do we want to host when we first open? How will the cafe operate? What point-of-sale system should be used? If we listed all of the questions that keep us awake at 2 in the morning, we might have a nervous breakdown. One thing is clear: we are all relieved to be having a soft opening in the quieter off-season to give us time to work out the kinks before summer 2019 hits!

Join Us for a Hard Hat Tour!

IMG_1213We’ve promised hard hat tours, and we’re finally delivering on that promise. The public is invited for a tour of the construction site on Thursday, March 8th at 4pm (inclement weather date of March 15th). Reservations are required, as we need to make sure we have enough hard hats for everyone. Participants must wear close-toed, rubber soled shoes and be willing to sign an insurance waiver before entering the building. If you’re interested in attending, please call Madison at 508-627-4441 x119. If there is high demand, we will try and schedule another shortly after. Once the weather improves, hard hat tours will be offered more frequently.

We’re so appreciative of the public’s interest and excitement surrounding the new museum. Although it is a very busy time for everyone at MVM, sometimes we have to force ourselves to take a step back and soak in just what’s happening. Our dream of giving the Island the state-of-the-art cultural center it deserves is quickly becoming a reality!

Closing Out The Year

Lots of progress has been made in the last few weeks. Mother Nature added her special touch last week covering the project site with a nice blanket of the white stuff (just enough snow to be pretty!)

Drone shot taken by board member Denys Wortman after the snow.

Crews have been hard at work both outside and inside the building. Shingle work continues on the upper half of the Marine Hospital. The building originally had shingle siding on the top half in 1895, and we will be restoring it to mimic this appearance.


Inside, additional framing is being done on the first and second floors where small doorways that once held a single door into hospital wards are being widened into expansive openings visitors can easily walk through to navigate the new museum.


In the basement, the footing for the elevator shaft is ready for concrete, and more structural work is being done where the Fresnel Lens Pavilion addition will be constructed. Eventually, the foundation of the 1895 building will be torn down on the side that the Pavilion will connect to. Crews have slowly begun removing the brick now that the structure above it is secure.


Some members of the board and staff also got a sneak peak at progress before the holidays. Everyone was excited to see how the building is coming along, even if it was a little chilly during our visits!


Finally, back in Edgartown, the staff toasted the final day the Gale Huntington Research Library was open to the public. The Library will be used as the staging grounds for the collection, especially the 1854 Fresnel Lens, as everything is professionally prepared and packed to move to Vineyard Haven. We will be going into much greater detail about the collection move including how to move a lighthouse lens in future blog posts. The Library holds wonderful memories for a variety of functions whether it was research, school field trips, lectures, programs, meetings, or other things.


The Museum galleries in Edgartown will also remain closed for the winter to provide space to help prepare for the move. They will re-open for one final summer Memorial Day weekend. The staff will still be hard at work while the galleries are closed, and programs will continue at off-site locations.


We’ve gotten a lot of inquiries as to why the Marine Hospital building is lit up in every room at night. The answer is, due to the size of the building, we are required by federal law to light each room. The rationale being, in the case of an emergency, responders wouldn’t have to take valuable time searching for lighting amidst a construction site to help alleviate the situation. We’d like to think the building is keeping an eye on the entire Island watching out as the ferries go in and out.

Happy Holidays!

As we approach Christmas, the site will remain mostly quiet until the new year. We hope everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday! Thank you for all your support and interest.


And Digging Begins…

Greetings from the future home of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum!

If you haven’t driven by the Marine Hospital lately, you may not have noticed the official start of construction. Given that the site is currently off limits to the general public, we promised to keep our members, donors, and friends as well as the entire Island up to date on the progress of the project. We’ll update this blog regularly as we hit more milestones, but today, we’re celebrating a big one!


Today, our friends at Keene Excavation began digging for what will become the Fresnel Lens Pavilion, the addition to the 1895 historic Marine Hospital. The pavilion will feature the 1854 original lens from the Gay Head Lighthouse and will include exhibits on lighthouses, the science of light, and shipwrecks. It will contain a small cafe where visitors can enjoy a sandwich or salad. The lower pavilion also leads families into the Hands-On History space, an interactive “do-touch” area. We’ll have a new exterior web cam set up soon where you can watch the construction of the pavilion along with renovation and restoration of the original 1895 building. Stay tuned to a future blog post IMG_0711for the link.

What else has been going on on site? Consigli Construction, our general contractors for the project, began work in October. The majority of work thus far has been repairing minor rot and structural work inside the 1895 building and removing exterior siding. This summer we completed hazardous material abatement and select demolition and prepared the site for construction. Want to see the 1938 addition come down? See it in a quick 4 minutes and 17 seconds here.

What’s next?

We’ll be taking you inside the building to show you some of the interior work done on the 1895 building in the next blog post. We’ll also be sharing some of the treasures found in the building thus far. Finally, we’ll be checking in with the Building Trades program at MV Regional High School to learn about the students’ plans for some of the historic wooden beams salvaged from the site that they’ll be re-purposing for our use.

Want even more?

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