Exhibits on display year round at the Martha's Vineyard Museum.
Thomas Cooke House
Hands-On History Lab
Enchanted Isle: The Story of Martha's Vineyard
Replica of a Tryworks
Historic Herb Garden
10,000 Years on Martha's Vineyard
Open mid June to mid October.
Temple Phillips Cooke, who was one of the island's earliest attorney's, built the Cooke House between 1720 and 1740 at its present location. He and his wife Jane Dagget had five children, one of whom was Thomas Cooke. Thomas married Abigail Coffin in 1763 and lived for some time in the Cooke House. Like his father, Thomas Cooke was an attorney and would later become the Customs Officer for Edgartown Harbor. One of Thomas and Abigail's sons, Thomas Cooke Jr., also became a Customs Officer and reportedly had his Customs Office in the front upstairs room of the house. At the time, there were fewer trees and houses, and he was able to see right down to the harbor. Eliza Cooke was the last member of the family to live in the house. She was born in Edgartown in 1792 and lived there until she was married in 1816. Upon the death of Thomas Cooke Jr. in 1820, the house was willed to one of his sons and eventually sold out of the family in 1853.
The house has little personal effects from the Cooke family because they had not owned the house for nearly a hundred years when the Museum acquired the property in 1930. The few pieces of furniture that we do exhibit in the Cooke House are pieces that were used on the Vineyard and are similar to pieces that would have belonged to the Cooke family. There are ten rooms open to the public both upstairs and downstairs, and each room focuses on a specific aspect of Island history.
Hands-On History is an interactive space geared toward engaging children and families in activities and learning experiences. It gives children of all ages an opportunity to experience story-telling, song, arts, and crafts relating to life on Martha's Vineyard. The exhibit features a series of stations with small displays, touchables, and activities based around themes such as Wampanoag traditions, field and farm, home and hearth, folk art, and maritime heritage.
This exhibition tells the story of Martha's Vineyard, from our geologic beginnings to the summer resort of today. Through oral histories and rarely seen objects in the collection, visitors can travel through the different eras in Martha's Vineyard's history.
The Spotlight Gallery is a continuing exhibition series that explores the scope of the Museum's wonderful collection. The rotating exhibition features seldom seen objects and oral histories chosen by the curators for an in-depth look. Visitors will see these objects which are individually compelling but without an over-arching narrative theme. Objects will be frequently changed out through the gallery, giving visitors the opportunity to see something new on every visit to the Museum.
For more information, please visit our Spotlight page.
The first order Fresnel lens that is on the Museum's campus was ordered for Gay Head Lighthouse, in order to provide it with a more powerful light. This lens was made in France in 1854 and served as the Gay Head Light from 1856 until it came to the Museum in 1952. The Fresnel lens was replaced at the Gay Head Lighthouse by an electrical beacon. The first light at Gay Head was a "spider" lamp with several wicks in 1799.
A Tryworks was used on board whaling ships for the purpose of boiling down or "trying out" blubber into oil. The oil was put into barrels on the ship and then sold for heating and lighting purposes.
Until the middle of the 18th century, colonial whalemen rendered, or extracted the oil, from blubber at the home port, or on the shore using portable try-works. The practice of installing the tryworks on the whaling vessel themselves transformed them into floating factories capable of cutting in, rendering and storing whale oil all in one place. This development lengthened the duration of whaling voyages substantially, allowing them to last for years and circumnavigate the globe in the pursuit of whales.
The Carriage Shed holds the bigger pieces of the Museum's collection. Inside are two small whaling and fishing vessels, a hearse, a Hawaiian canoe, surfboards, an Erford Burt kayak, gravestones for some beloved chickens, and the headlamp for the island's locomotive, the Active.
Our historic Herb Garden demonstrates the importance of household gardens throughout history. Both fragrant and practical, the garden grows traditional herbs for food, bedding and curing ailments.
An archaeological study on Martha's Vineyard history, this exhibit tells the combined stories of all of the Island's inhabitants from the Ice Age to modern times.The Wampanoag are thoroughly featured as the Native American group that has lived on Martha's Vineyard for thousands of years.