For 73 years, the Dukes County Historical Society has been the resource for those interested in the history, genealogy, culture and natural history of Martha’s Vineyard.
But institutions need to move with the times. At the society’s annual meeting on August 19, the membership voted to change the name of the organization. From now on, the gate house at the corner of School and Cook streets in Edgartown will read Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society.
“What’s in a name?” asked Romeo. The answer the Society expects, will be recognition.
“We made this change only after a great deal of deliberation,” said society president David B. Vietor. “We are the Island’s oldest historical institution, and we did not make the change lightly. But, he added, “Our new name resonates with today’s reality, just as our old name reflected our environment 73 years ago.”
The decision to change the society’s name was the result of many factors. Name recognition was a major point at issue, Mr. Vietor said, since a significant portion of the society’s revenue derives from the visitors who come to enjoy the society’s exhibitions and programs. He quoted a society member who told him, at the annual meeting, that “a lot more people have heard of the Vineyard than ever have heard of Dukes County.”
It is hoped that name recognition will also help in identifying the society to newer visitors to the Island, to whom the name Dukes County has little meaning.
Mr. Vietor stressed that only the name will change. Visitors to the campus will see not changes. The society’s exhibitions and programs will continue. Those interested in the history and the culture of Martha’s Vineyard will find a welcome in the library and the archives. Even the phone and fax numbers remain the same.
Equally importantly, The Dukes County Intelligencer, the Society’s highly-regarded quarterly journal of Island history, will continue with the same name and the same focus.
Founded in 1922 to collect and preserve the Vineyard’s history, culture and natural history, the society’s mission remains constant. As the statement of purpose puts it, the society “seeks to share, preserve and protect these interests by every feasible means É with as wide an audience as possible.”
Want a photograph of the Oak Bluffs bathing beach in 1900? Or a look at a whaleship’s log? Do you want to trace your Vineyard ancestry, or see an exhibit on what Vineyard sailors brought back from their voyages around the world? The Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society has more 30,000 artifacts in its collections, ranging from lighthouses to hairpins. The Huntington Research Library holds an impressive collection of Vineyard books and papers, including a complete collection of Vineyard genealogical material as can be found anywhere.
Although the unanimous vote was taken on August 19, the transition from the old to the new will be officially marked at the society’s 74th birthday party on Oct. 12. The new seal will be unveiled, and there will be a dedication of memorial paintings on the society’s grounds.