On Friday, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum rolled out a history-walk, its version of the red carpet, to celebrate the beginning of the summer season at the corner of Cooke and School streets. Those who attended were treated to shrimp cocktails, cornhole, an open-bar, and artwork in the form of rice-paper animal lanterns from students in the Sense of Wonder creative-arts program.

The opening of the summer season marked a moment of transition for the museum. As it remodels and finalizes plans to move into the former Vineyard Haven Marine Hospital, it also looked to pay homage to the historic location it has called home since 1922. At the party, attendees could purchase signed copies of research librarian A. Bowdoin Van Riper’s new book, titled Images of America, Edgartown. They could also visit its accompanying exhibit which uses pictures from the museum’s collection to chronologically tell Edgartown’s story, from its early days to becoming a whaling mecca, and its transformation into a summer resort destination.

“It’s a little bittersweet, because it’s our last hoorah here,” said exhibitions curator and the night’s busy bartender, Anna Barber. “We did the photography exhibit to celebrate the town, sort of as a love letter,” she added.

While excitement for the museum’s new location bubbled up throughout the event, most were also pleased to know that the Cooke house would remain museum property.

“This important tract of land will be protected forever,” said museum executive director Phil Wallis. “We’ll never lose this home.”

Opening party was last hurrah at old Edgartown campus. — Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Museum

That doesn’t mean it’s going to look the same in the future. The Cooke House, which curator Bonnie Stacy believes is the oldest building in its original location in Edgartown, will serve as the centerpiece of a learning loop, where visitors will be able to take a walk through the Island’s history, from the days the Wampanoag inhabited the land, to when Mr. Cooke could see from School street to the harbor, and his home served as Edgartown’s customs house. Today, Ms. Stacy has removed most of the furniture from the historic building and wants visitors to give suggestions about how to use the space.

“Although we aren’t going to keep it empty,” Ms. Stacy said of the Cooke House, “I would really encourage people to come in and see what the bones of the building look like. It’s a rare opportunity.”

A bulletin board at the home’s exit, asking “what would you put here?” underscores Ms. Stacy’s desire for the community to share its ideas about the property. She wants the space, ultimately, to be for them.

“We see this corner being a little oasis in Edgartown where people can come relax and see the history,” she said.

Museum employees and trustees also want it to be educational.

“The museum is very much involved with kids, and we do a tremendous amount with schools,” said board member Chris Murphy. “Twenty per cent of our staff is now education,” he added.

This year, the museum has unveiled new STEAM carts (STEM, but with “Arts”) that focus on the Fresnel lens and archaeology (excavators found millstones from Daniel Fisher’s house on the property). And on Friday, the museum teamed up with the Sense of Wonder camp in Vineyard Haven to illuminate the party tent and yard with paper-lanterns the kids in the program had worked on for nearly a month.

Pam Benjamin, who has run Sense of Wonder for the past 28 years, said she met museum director Phil Wallis last June at the Evening of Discovery and saw they had lanterns hanging. “I thought, wait, we have these beautiful lanterns the kids make that would also involve the community. So I asked him, and he of course said yes!”

Amidst the generally older crowd at the museum summer opening party were children who came to see their colorful reed and rice-paper mache animals alight. When Koko Capece heard someone else was making a seal, she settled on a swordfish. Ten-year-old Maverick Pil made a robin, modeled after the bird he saw flying around in his backyard. For some kids, the animal kingdom was a bit too restrictive: Elliott Stead made an “albino lion fish.”

“It was really fun and creative,” said Jack Engler, clutching a paper-mache sea-creature in his arms.

With more space in its new location, the museum hopes to continue the educational initiatives that have come to define its presence in Edgartown. Chair of the board of directors, Stever Aubrey, closed out the summer night echoing that idea.

“What we are building up in Vineyard Haven will allow us, with a little more parking, to learn and teach about everything that makes this Island special,” he said.