Permanent Exhibitions

One Island, Many Stories

This exhibit offers an introduction to Island history arranged in a thematic way. Visitors are able to learn about the diverse history of Martha’s Vineyard through the lenses of fishing, farming, changing, voyaging, creating, escaping, and belonging. An interactive map is located in the center of the exhibit. Connectedness is implicit everywhere: connections from around the world and to the Island, connections between Wampanoag people and the land, settlers to the sea, and from one town to another.


Flashes of Brilliance

This exhibit chronicles the history of lighthouses on the Island diving into the details of the Gay Head Light in Aquinnah. Set in the midst of this space, and spanning two floors like a suspended jewel, is the magnificent first-order Fresnel Lens, which was first installed in the Gay Head Light from 1854 to 1952. Around the Lens, the exhibit explores the geology of the region and the resultant landscape of its coastal edges, the changing land, and lighthouse navigational aid.


The Challenge of the Sea

This exhibit explores the stories associated with shipping and navigation, lifesaving, and weather in Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds, the second-busiest waterways in the world in the 19th century. On display are sextants, chronometers, celestial bodies, and charts, as well as artifacts from local shipwrecks such as the steamer City of Columbus, which wrecked in 1883.


Hands-On History

This special place is “kid-scale.” A climb-in boat, a sea captain’s cabin, a fishing shack – these are some of the iconic experiences that will help kids to learn through discovery. Each facet of Hands-on History is designed to complement one or more features of the larger exhibits providing “Do Touch!” learning experiences. STEM concepts are embedded in each experience, enabling kids to build skills through play.


On This Site

This exhibit chronicles the historical significance of the site that the Museum sits on. Did you know a lighthouse once existed on the front terrace? In 1895, the Coast Guard ordered the construction of a Marine Hospital on the property later adding onto it in 1938. Hear oral histories from some of the patients and nurses who spent time there. The site was also owned by the St. Pierre family operating the St. Pierre School of Sport. Hear some of the memories of the campers who called this campus home during their childhood summers.


History Highlights

This gallery presents a brief animated program that introduces the Island’s timeline, from prehistory to present day. It is meant to provide context to visitors and an overview of Island history before they explore the other permanent and rotating galleries in the Museum.


Doherty Hall

Doherty Hall is home to some of the larger objects in the Museum’s collection. Located inside are a number of whaling and fishing vessels, the original hearse from the town of Edgartown, the Mayhew peddler’s cart used for deliveries at Alley’s General Store, a Hawaiian canoe, surfboards, an Erford Burt kayak, the headlamp for the Island’s locomotive, the Active, and much more. Located in the barn behind the main museum.