On Saturday evening at the Evening of Discovery event, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s annual opening of summer party and fundraiser, white flags billowed on stately sailcloth tents, and Gatsby-esque chandeliers hung from the tent’s ceilings. The event took place at the former Marine Hospital in Vineyard Haven, the future site of the museum, and guests recreated a bygone time to celebrate history and the future of the organization by wearing flapper dresses, beads and Panama hats.
It was the 1920s again and anything seemed possible.
“The museum will be the cultural hub of the Island,” said executive director Phil Wallis as he welcomed the 400 guests. “The core of the museum is education. All of us need to learn from mistakes and successes, that’s what history can do for us.”
The building itself reflects this idea. It is a gorgeous old building, with high ceilings and strong bones. Though it has been abandoned for decades, it has a regal air of wanting to continue to tell a story. Its windows are industrial and its doorframes are classic.
A few years ago, Denys Wortman was cruising along Vineyard Haven Harbor and looked up at the old building. He saw that it was for sale.
“I got this idea,” he said during Saturday evening’s cocktail hour. “I thought that it would be the perfect place for the museum.”
He convinced the museum of his plan, construction plans began, donations were made and the opening date of the new museum was set for the spring of 2018.
At the event Phil Wallis wore a straw hat made by his wife, museum events manager Katy Fuller wore a sparkly blue flapper dress, and former curator Dana Street pulled her hair back with a feather-adorned headband. Before dinner was served, various donors raised their hands and on the spot paid for the construction of the museum’s future bathrooms, windows and benches.
Mr. Wallis gave a vigorous toast.
“These are exciting times,” he said. “I want to end with one word: action. We are on the move.”
He then took off his straw hat and replaced it with an yellow construction helmet.