Navigating the Museum
As You Enter
Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to check out the iconic view from the patio. Sprawling dunes, low and open heath lands, and the waves crashing upon the south shore on Moshup's Beach!
Then, when you get inside, soak in the living room, where there lives items from Edwin D. Vanderhoop's family. Pieces of history that tell the story of the Vanderhoop family and how they came to have the Homestead where the Aquinnah Cultural Center now lives.
Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America
This wampum exhibit, curated and assembled by Native artists and educators, tells a story of Wampanoag resilience–Wampanoag art, culture, stories, and ideas are here to stay. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a magnificent new wampum belt, through which Wampanoag artists of today share their stories creative aspirations.
Made from the purple and white shells of the whelk and quahog, wampum beads embody the Wampanoag connection to the sea and to life itself. Each wampum bead is imbued with memory and meaning by the maker, and the belt, held together by soft, yet durable brain-tanned lace warps, has developed into a remarkable tapestry of art, community, and tribal history.
Julia Marden and Jason Widdiss, both members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah, led the belt weaving and bead making efforts, respectively. Andre Strongbearheart Gaines, an artist and cultural steward of the Nipmuc Nation, led the traditional brain tanning process. A truly communal effort, many other Wampanoag artists and tribal members contributed beads to this wampum belt and helped to complete it.
Our History in Perspective
Multiple panel installations share the rich history of the Aquinnah Wampanoag; how we came to this place, and the perseverance required through many transitional periods through to today.
Discover the truth about indigenous slaves, "Manifest Destiny" and how this dangerous ideology led to the near destruction of many indigenous communities, and the utilization of Christianity as a means to strip native people of their sense of identity and to brand traditional lifeways as "demonic" or "evil."
The enclosed sun-deck (once just the outside of the house!) houses our "industry" section. Explore the long history of pilot whaling and how it resulted in Wampanoag men being sought heavily during the American whaling-industry. Discover where fiction and reality meet in the life of Amos Smalley.
Learn about the cranberry bogs of Aquinnah, and how the whole community harvested to sell for days on end; camping in the dunes adjacent to the bogs during the harvest season.
Get introduced to Artists like David Vanderhoop and Gladys Widdiss, a painter and potter respectively, and their impacts on the community and on art on Martha's Vineyard.
Have you thought about what a kitchen might look like prior to electric appliances? Have you seen a soapstone sink, or old pressure scales?
Don't forget the under-stair pantry; housing gorgeous old china; as well as old-fashioned "fire grenades," which served as extinguishers prior to the wall-mounted compressed foam extinguishers we use today.
The kitchen also houses a piece crafted from salvaged materials from the City of Columbus; a steam-liner that sank off Aquinnah in 1884 with over 100 passengers aboard.
The bedroom gives an opportunity to peer into intimate components of life at the turn of the last century.
Did you ever think about what it meant to wake in the middle of a winter night to go to the bathroom except the bathroom is an outhouse out in the cold? It's a great opportunity to imagine being in that time.
The bedroom also hosts an oral history presentation on a loop played through TV, giving first-hand accounts of life in Aquinnah in the early 1900s. This presentation, approximately 45 minutes in length, is incredibly insightful.