By Lucas Thors
The Martha’s Vineyard Museum never stopped celebrating the rich uniqueness of the Island, but now folks can immerse themselves in the arts, culture, and history of our home in person.
After the museum closed its doors in March, staff and administrators worked hard to launch a number of alternative programs and exhibits, many of which were online.
Director of operations and business development for the museum Katy Fuller told The Times that right after they closed, a number of innovative opportunities for galleries, exhibits, and tours arose.
All past issues of the MVM Quarterly/Dukes County Intelligencer were made available online, and virtual exhibits, accompanied by pictures, videos, and descriptions, were also posted on the museum website.
The museum has offered an outdoor-only experience since its initial reopening at the end of June. Exhibits such as the Rose Styron Garden and the solar-powered “Sun-Bird” are on display at the museum’s campus. Even the catboat Vanity, which traditionally sails the harbor, is currently docked for up-close admiration.
Now the museum is welcoming the general public back to the picturesque campus to view some of the new displays and exhibits.
Although Fuller said the museum has been utilizing timed ticket entry to ensure proper distancing and building capacity, there has not been much of a need to space out guests.
“So far, it has been the perfect amount of visitors, in the sense that plenty of people are coming and enjoying the exhibits, but we never felt that it was overcrowded,” Fuller said.
According to Fuller, the museum reopening committee wanted to assess admission numbers before figuring out exactly how to control the flow of visitors.
In the first week alone, Fuller said the museum saw 489 visitors, which she called the “perfect number” when spread out over the course of seven days.
With state directives setting the maximum capacity for the museum at 40 percent, that means 128 people could be in the building at one time.
“That honestly still seems high to a lot of us on the reopening committee. I think 128 seemed tight because although we have a lot of square footage, many of our rooms and hallways are tight. We have not approached anywhere near that number of people at any given time,” Fuller said.
Two former installations, “Neighbors in the Deep: The North Atlantic Right Whale” and “Women’s Works,” will return to the community gallery after closing alongside the museum in March, and a new gallery — “Recollection: A Personal Museum — An Installation by Lucy Mitchell,” is now available for viewing.
“This is a very healing exhibit,” Fuller said. “It is a collection of things that Lucy has found on the Vineyard during her walks on trails and beaches. Those pieces are accompanied by diaries, journal entries, and are grouped together in a very artistic way.”
There are also 11 am tour times for folks who want to get a comprehensive view of all the museum offerings. The museum has been allowing people to use their archive materials for research for books and scholarly works, and also providing assistance from the research librarians.
Going forward, Fuller said, the museum will continue to serve as a reminder of how special the Island is, and how close-knit the community is. She said the two educators on the museum staff who work with Island schools will continue to be resources for full-time teachers who are being faced with a “huge task” in getting kids back to school. Lessons posted on the museum website were downloaded by parents and teachers more than 1,500 times.
The continuity of the online resources will be an ongoing conversation for the museum reopening committee, and ways of shifting back to in-person while maintaining the robust delivery of online content will be explored.
“We are still the same size staff, and are trying to shift back to in-person, so we are looking at the ways to best utilize our talented staff and resources at the museum,” Fuller said.
According to Fuller, the pandemic has forced the museum to think creatively and delve into projects that it originally didn’t have time for. “It has been a great experience pivoting to digital stuff. We enjoyed doing it, and we know how much the community appreciates it,” Fuller said. “If there is any silver lining to this mess, it’s that we have been able to use our time not in the museum to focus on expanding our other services and offerings.”
Fuller suggested timed entry reservations for visitors because it allows them to fill out the entry survey ahead of time, asking whether or not they have traveled recently, tested positive for COVID-19, or are symptomatic.
If folks don’t fill out the entry reservation form, they must fill one out upon arriving at the museum. “If there are any issues, we would gladly refund them their ticket,” Fuller said.
The museum will be open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm. Current admission is $12 for adults and seniors. Children 17 years and younger and museum members are free. A timed entry reservation is suggested. Visit mvmuseum.org for more information.