Questions about the Martha’s Vineyard Commission — what it is, what it does and why it exists in the first place — are answered in full by a new exhibition, MVC@50, at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs.

Unlike most Featherstone shows, which bring together the diverse viewpoints of visual artists, MVC@50 aims a focused lens at the commission’s half-century of planning authority over developments affecting the Vineyard as a whole.

“It’s the only Island-wide political body that can make a difference,” commissioner Ben Robinson told the Gazette at Sunday’s opening reception for the show.

Original MVC member Greg Coogan, and exhibit curator Steve Zablotny. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Created by the Vineyard Haven design team of Steve and Peggy Zablotny, the exhibit combines facts, maps and archival images to trace the commission’s 50 years of managing growth on an Island under ceaseless pressure to develop. The couple spent four months transforming MVC data into an informative, easy-to-follow exhibition, in the process gaining a new appreciation for the commission’s work.

“I had no idea at all what was going on in that stone building,” Ms. Zablotny said, referring to MVC headquarters on New York avenue in Oak Bluffs, where a planning staff of 14 supports the 17-member commission’s work.

“That was the real eye-opener,” Ms. Zablotny said. “It looks like nothing’s going on there, but the commission is very active all the time.”

Commission members, too, have found surprises in the show. On Sunday, commissioner Peter Wharton marveled at a 1972 clipping about a failed state bill that proposed a bridge from Woods Hole to the Vineyard’s northwest shore.

Commission member Ben Robinson points out a slide. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“I’d heard something about a bridge, but I thought it was a legend,” Mr. Wharton said.

Other current and past commissioners who turned out for the reception included chair Fred Hancock, members Trip Barnes and Gregory A. Coogan, one of the original members when the commission was formed in 1974.

“It was a learning experience,” Mr. Coogan recalled of his time on the commission, which began its work by identifying areas at risk of over-development and designating them districts of critical planning concern (DCPCs).

Visitors to Featherstone will see these districts mapped and defined, along with a well-designed section on developments of regional impact (DRIs) that includes examples of major projects the commission has reviewed over the years.

MVC will host its meeting this Thursday in the Featherstone exhibit space. — Mark Alan Lovewell

A centerpiece of the show is its comprehensive timeline of MVC history, including the withdrawals of Edgartown in 1978 and Tisbury in 1980, before both towns rejoined 1984.

“It’s pretty impressive,” Mr. Barnes said of the exhibition, which is on display through March 30 in Featherstone’s Francine Kelly Gallery.

There is another reception at the gallery on March 14 at 5 p.m.