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Founded in 1922, the Martha's Vineyard Museum was originally comprised of several buildings including the historic ca. 1740s Cooke House, the Pease House which contained exhibit gallery space, the Carriage shed which featured vessels, vehicles and a whale boat, and the Gale Huntington Research Library & Archives. There is also the large Fresnel lens used in the Gay Head Lighthouse from 1854-1951 and a 1900s-era anchor. The museum is dedicated solely to Martha's Vineyard's history and this is reflected in the collection, which includes fine art, photographs, furniture, textiles and scrimshaw. The museum is also the caretaker of the above-mentioned Gay Head Lighthouse, the Edgartown Lighthouse, and the East Chop Lighthouse (all three are listed on the National Register of Historic Places). The library and archives houses thousands of books and images, and numerous other materials such as logbooks, newspapers, maritime records, Revolutionary War documents, Native American artifacts, maps and nautical charts.

This is the front of Martha's Vineyard Museum

Sky, Building, Plant, Window

The museum was founded as the Dukes County Historical Society. It changed its name to Martha's Vineyard Historical Society in 1996 to reflect its emphasis on the Martha's Vineyard. It adopted the name in 2006 to reflect its mission and collections. Currently the museum has moved its location to Vineyard Haven and changed their name to "Martha's Vineyard Museum"

The Mv Museum wasn’t always a museum. It was first a lighthouse and then was turned into a Marine Hospital. The original lighthouse was built in 1763 but then was transformed into a Hospital in 1893. Founded by Dr. Samuel Gelston of Nantucket, it was the first hospital on the vineyard. It was built in Vineyard Haven overlooking Lagoon Pond and the Harbor. And this Hospital would be known as the United States Marine Hospital until 1902 where it was officially opened to public health. 

In 1893, the vineyard Gazette released a paper declaring the details of the soon to be newly built Hospital. They released the ground plan of the building, which at the time were; “50x42 feet, in front, which has two stories and an attic. Extending from the rear corners of the executive building are two glass covered porches leading to the two wards, which are 29x56 feet. Extending from the rear corners of each are the smoking and bath rooms, 17x27 feet, then from the smoking rooms, connected by glass covered porches, are the attendants’ quarters, kitchen, etc., all in one building. The attendants quarters are 30x43 feet and two stories high." In the executive building there would be the surgeons office and the reception room both being 15-17 feet, The dispensary and operating room both being 14 -15 feet, and the steward’s office, 7-15 feet. And the upper story and attic will be devoted as the steward’s quarters. They also promoted that this hospital would be built with the best material in every detail, and would be supplied with all new hygienic and modern improvements. Of course this would end up costing the town a hefty $30,000.

This hospital would then be known to treat ongoing sailors due to the convenience of it being located between New York and Boston. According to the Vineyard Gazette; “These vessels and ships came from all points along the American coast and very frequently carried a case or two of some disease picked up in the West Indies or southern ports. Smallpox was the most common and when such cases were landed, as they had to be, there was always danger that the disease might be communicated to the Island inhabitants. As a matter of fact, there were numerous epidemics of smallpox on the Vineyard in the early days, some of which were traceable to the visits of ships, or the landing on the beaches of articles thrown overboard from them." It was necessary to have a hospital on the vineyard for traveling sailors at the time because many sailors would come to the island diseased, disabled, or injured and would just die without anyone knowing who they were or where they came from. Graveyards would be filled with many unmarked grave stones for these people.

Eventually this Marine Hospital would be put out of service and a newer, and bigger hospital would be built right across from the old hospital on the other side of Lagoon Pond. And with time the Marine Hospital started to erode and break down. Eventually the town decided to renovate the building and turn it into a museum. And after many years of renovation and construction, the Mv Museum was formed.

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