Preservation and Access: Preservation Assistance Grants

Period of Performance

1/1/2015 - 6/30/2016

Funding Totals

$6,000.00 (approved)
$6,000.00 (awarded)

Fresnel Lens Conservation Assessment Project

FAIN: PG-52528-15

Martha's Vineyard Museum (Vineyard Haven, MA 02568-5515)
Bonnie Stacy (Project Director: May 2014 to September 2016)

Hiring a consultant to undertake a preservation assessment of a rare and historically significant Fresnel lighthouse lens that was built in Paris in 1854 and installed in the newly constructed Gay Head Cliffs lighthouse, on Martha’s Vineyard, in 1856.  The lens remained in the lighthouse until 1952 when it was replaced by a new light.  In anticipation of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s move from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven in 2017, a preservation assessment of the lens would result in a plan for conservation treatment, maintenance, and rehousing in the new museum.  The lens has been the subject of books and articles and sheds light on 19th-century maritime history, the development of the New England whaling industry, and the history of the science of optics.

The focus of this project is the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s 1854 first order Fresnel lens, considered the Museum’s single most important object. The lens combines Martha’s Vineyard history, maritime history, and the history of the science of optics in one object. Preservation Assistance grant funds will be used to hire a lighthouse conservator to evaluate the preservation needs of the lens in advance of the Museum’s proposed move from Edgartown to a new building in Vineyard Haven. The conservator will visit the Museum, examine the lens and its mechanism, prepare a treatment proposal, prepare a plan for moving the lens and mechanism, and consult with the architects who are designing the new building. This will ensure that the preservation requirements of the lens are taken into consideration during even the earliest stages of architectural design.

Media Coverage

Have You Seen the Light, Friend? (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Richard C. Skidmore
Publication: Martha's Vineyard Magazine
Date: 5/1/2019
URL: http://

Museum Receives Grant for Fresnel Lens Relocation (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Alex Elvin
Publication: Vineyard Gazette
Date: 5/5/2015
URL: http://

Through a lens brightly (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Jack Shea
Publication: MV Times
Date: 10/4/2016
URL: http://

Museum hosts talk on Fresnel lens (Media Coverage)
Date: 10/30/2018
URL: http://