After losing $135,000 during a year of staff changes in 2007, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum announced last month that it is back in the black, thanks to an individual contribution from an anonymous donor.
Now with six successful grants obtained, including two from the prestigious, peer-reviewed National Endowment for the Humanities, the museum appears to have hit a purple patch.
Director of development Amy Houghton said that the donor’s check, received at An Evening of Discovery, the museum’s annual fundraiser, covered last year’s debt as well as any expenses incurred this year as a result of the debt.
The check was cut at July’s fundraiser, which Ms. Houghton called the most successful to date in the event’s 10-year history Almost 300 people attended the event, which featured dinner, dancing and silent and live auctions.
Museum executive director Keith Gorman told the Gazette that the debt was accrued by staff additions during a general economic downturn.
At the fundraiser the museum also received the donation of a painting, titled Strider’s Surrender, which depicts the Quitsa Strider II, a Menemsha-based fishing trawler. The painting, which was bought for $75,000 and donated anonymously, evokes the decline of the local fishing industry and is a significant acquisition for the museum, Ms. Houghton said.
She said the museum received replies on six of the seven grants written this year. Of the two grants received by the museum from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an implementation fund will finance $218,000 for an interactive Web site dedicated to the Roman, a whaling ship captained by an ancestor of the Jernegan family which has its roots in Edgartown.
“It’s an answer for anyone who has any questions about the quality of what’s going on at the museum,” she said.
Another grant funds research for a permanent exhibit at a new museum location. There have long been space issues at the current museum campus on the corner of Cooke and School streets in Edgartown, where 10 per cent of the museum collection is currently displayed.
Since 2001 the museum has been pursuing a new location as part of a $27 million capital campaign. In 2002 it purchased a 10-acre plot in West Tisbury. An antique dairy barn was also acquired for the site, but then campaign stalled in the face of funding concerns.
Earlier this year, a new option appeared when Edgartown selectmen offered the museum the old Edgartown school as a potential campus.
According to Ms. Houghton the museum is currently considering both locations, along with a third option of staying put. She added that a planning committee, chaired by Edgartown attorney and museum board member Edward W. (Peter) Vincent Jr., and made up of board and staff members is in charge of investigating the three options, considering location and storage capability among other concerns.
Ms. Hougton said contingent on obtaining all the pertinent information, the committee will make its recommendation to the board by the end of next month.
Last month also saw Chris Morse step down as chairman of the board of directors. The new chairman is Elizabeth Beim, who was development director at the Museum of the American Indian in New York for 15 years.
Mr. Gorman announced the change in a letter circulated to friends of the museum in August. Mr. Morse will remain on the board.
Ms. Beim is now retired and a seasonal resident of Vineyard Haven. In 1991 she was made head of cultural programs at the Americas Society, a not-for-profit forum established to foster an inter-American relationship and to increase understanding of cultural heritage of the continent and of issues confronting Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada.