Martha’s Vineyard Museum board members introduced a new award Monday, the Martha’s Vineyard Medal, and honored four individuals who demonstrated a commitment to preserving the history, arts and culture of the Island through their roles as community leaders. The awards ceremony was part of the museum’s annual meeting.

The meeting began under a crowded sunlit tent on the grassy Edgartown museum campus, with a positive financial review of 2008, and a positive outlook for the current fiscal year. “2008 was a banner year for the museum,” said board chairman Elizabeth Beim. Among the marks of success she noted: the museum had paid off all debt and cultivated many new donors.

The incoming executive director, David Nathan, who takes up the job next month, was also in attendance.

Medal winners were honored in a short ceremony following the meeting.

Two awards were given posthumously, to John Walter and Della Hardman. Both recipients were recognized for their involvement in journalism. Mr. Walter acted as editor and publisher of the Vineyard Gazette, editor of the Duke’s County Intelligencer, and began a private Island publishing company called Vineyard Stories. “He felt there was a lot of wonderful work to do in communicating the [Vineyard] stories,” said Nis Kildegaard, who accepted the award on behalf of his friend Mr. Walter and his family.

Mrs. Hardman’s daughter Andrea Taylor accepted her mother’s award, noting her long list of accomplishments and contributions to the Island community, including her role as Oak Bluffs columnist for the Vineyard Gazette. After accepting the award, Ms. Taylor offered a gift of a painted sign reading Savor the Moment to the museum committee. This phrase was Mrs. Hardman’s signature — she used it to conclude her weekly column — as well as representative of her approach to life.

Island artist Ray Ellis was the third medal recipient, for conveying the history of the Vineyard through his art. He is represented in several galleries here and is the author of several books about the Island. “I never realized that I was helping to [chronicle] the Vineyard,” he said in his acceptance speech. “I just want to say how grateful I am to be honored this way.”

Phil Hale presented an award to his father, Tom Hale, for his dedication to the nautical history of the Island. Mr. Hale is an author, shipbuilder and historian. “Island history is largely maritime history,” said the medal recipient. He has made a career of building model ships, which have helped shape the understanding of this history. “I am proud to have played a small part in the preservation or interpretation of our Island’s past, present and future,” he said.