The Martha’s Vineyard Museum has received a $109,040 grant to move the museum’s historic 1854 Gay Head Lighthouse Fresnel lens from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven.
The grant from the Museums for America program at the Institute of Museum and Library Services will fund restoration and relocation of the delicate lens from the museum’s current Edgartown campus to the 1895 Marine Hospital in Vineyard Haven. The museum’s move is scheduled for 2018.
The grant will be matched by the museum, according to a press release.
The Fresnel lens was ordered by the United States government and built by Henri LePaute of Paris, and was installed in the Gay Head Lighthouse in 1856. The lens was a scientific wonder at the time, designed by Augustin Fresnel and featuring hundreds of prisms arranged in a beehive shape, and refract and reflect light like an oil-burning lamp, creating a single beam that can be seen 20 miles away.
After more than a century guiding sailors from the Gay Head Cliffs, the Fresnel lens was replaced with an electric beacon and moved to the museum in Edgartown. It is the largest made and one of only 39 first-order Fresnel lenses remaining in the country. It also still has its clockwork, pedestal, chariot assembly, pulley and weights, making it one of the most complete.
Care and maintenance for the artifact will be one of the museum’s top priorities as they prepare to move to the new campus, the museum said. The Fresnel requires conservation treatment to alleviate corrosion, stabilize cracked panels, and replace damaged or missing elements. It will receive a thorough cleaning, as well.