Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is the third-largest island on the East Coast of the United States, with a land area of about 96 square miles. Five lighthouses were established on the island, beginning with Gay Head Light in 1799.
The Martha’s Vineyard Museum was originally incorporated in the 1920s as the Dukes County Historical Society. In 1932, the Society purchased the Thomas Cooke House in Edgartown to serve as its permanent headquarters. As the collection grew, the museum expanded in the years that followed. A small tower was built on the museum grounds to display the 1854 Fresnel lens from Gay Head Lighthouse.
Realizing the need for more and better collection storage space, improved access, and additional space for exhibitions and public programming, the Museum purchased the former 1895 Marine Hospital in Vineyard Haven in 2011. The museum opened in its new location in 2019. The museum’s “Flashes of Brilliance” exhibit chronicles the history of lighthouses and navigation around the Island. Set in the middle of the exhibit and spanning two floors like a suspended jewel is the magnificent first-order Fresnel Lens from Gay Head Lighthouse. The guest in this episode, Bonnie Stacy, is the chief curator of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
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Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org