Each year in the fall, after the Wurlitzer music has quieted down at the Flying Horses and the carousel prepares for its winter hibernation, routine maintenance is required. After all, the hand-carved horses with their genuine horsehair manes and tails take a beating carrying countless riders.

Artist Margot Datz (with John Anderson) had to do a lot of detective work. — Courtesy Margot Datz

Myles Thurlow works as the resident mechanic and horse knee-doctor (he replaced four horse knees this winter). John Anderson does general painting and keeps the horses’ coats shining. And this year, Margot Datz joined the off-season team, focusing on the painted panels that decorate the center column and the spokes of the carousel.

The carousel opens for its 142nd consecutive season on Saturday, April 15, when the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust will unveil the newly refurbished panels. The trust took ownership of the carousel in 1986.

Ms. Datz recreated six panels, featuring river scenes and ships. On Wednesday morning, the new panels were hung on the carousel, after being stored for over 20 years, too degraded for display.

“Whether it’s a merry-go-round panel or the Mona Lisa, restoration is the same very fastidious process,” said Ms. Datz by phone. “Most of [the panels] were torn, almost impossible to see the images. [Chris Scott] showed them to me and asked me if I could recreate them. I knew that I could.” Ms. Datz previously worked with the trust in 2013, restoring the murals in the Old Whaling Church.

To get as close to the originals as possible, she hired her brother, Stephen Datz, to build frames to stretch the canvases in the same way as the originals. Then she carefully inspected the panels, noting brush work, color scheme and style. While Ms. Datz said she could find no information on who the original painter was, she suspected they were painted factory style by more than one artist.

Robin Meader has been managing the Flying Horses for 30 years. — Mark Lovewell

“The decorative surrounding was painted by one artist, another did the roses at the bottom of the large pieces, another did the vignettes and landscapes . . . several hands were involved in it,” Ms. Datz said.

Some of the sections were so tarnished it was hard to figure out the original design. It was a bit like detective work, she said.

“It’s just the really fun part of working on historical projects. There is so much mystery.”

The largest panel, a bucolic river vignette, was particularly challenging.

“One part didn’t make any sense to me,” she said. “Then I figured out it was a broken branch leaning into the water with its reflection...it looked like a dark sideways V. When I figured it out, it was this moment of eureka, like I solved this riddle.”

Flying Horses opens on April 15, with six newly refurbished panels. — Mark Lovewell

Over the years the painted panels had also changed motifs. For a while it was cowboys before switching to an Age of Aquarius theme with celestial paintings of horoscopes.

“There was a time when the carousel had a more flamboyant look to it,” said Funi Burdick, executive director of the Preservation Trust. “Over time we went back to a more historic intent for the carousel.”

The four chariots on the carousel were also the subject of past detective work. Three of them were created in a sleigh style with two rows of forward facing benches. One misfit is more like a cart with two inward facing benches. For a while, it was thought that the cart-style chariot had replaced a sleigh-style chariot, manager Robin Meader said. The trust had planned to replace the odd-ball chariot with another Charles Dare chariot they acquired, but then an old catalogue was unearthed showing the misfit was indeed a part of the original design.

Ms. Meader has managed the Flying Horses for 30 years. Looking at the newly painted panels on Wednesday, she remarked, “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Ms. Burdick said returning the Flying Horses to its original design gives the carousel the prestige it deserves. And an important part of that prestige is that the horses continue to be ridden by Vineyard visitors and residents.

Cleaning the windows ahead of opening day. — Mark Lovewell

“All historic properties in order to have value to the community, they need to be used, not just observed,” she said. “Also by using buildings and the carousel, it requires us to be constantly and actively maintaining them. It’s not good for something that is mechanical to not be operated and it’s not good for a house to be closed up.”

When the Flying Horses opens on Saturday it will once again lay claim to the title of the oldest continuously operating platform carousel in the nation. The Flying Horses has inspired songs, poems and children’s books. And now it has inspired Ms. Datz. She hopes to continue working with the trust to recreate the rest of the missing panels.

“That would be a dream,” she said. “I would love to be the one to finish that carousel in its entirety.”

The Flying Horses opens on Saturday April 15 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Easter bunny will visit on Sunday. The carousel will remain open for the week of school vacation and then stay open on weekends only until school lets out.