The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association is a private non-profit organization located on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. The Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) was founded in 1902 to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and, above all, educator, Maria Mitchell. After she discovered a comet in 1847, Mitchell’s international fame led to many achievements and awards, including an appointment as the first American Professor of Astronomy at Vassar College. Maria Mitchell believed in “learning by doing” and today that philosophy is reflected in MMA’s mission statement, programs, research projects, and other activities.
The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages.
One crisp, clear night in October of 1847, a woman stood alone on a Nantucket rooftop with a telescope at her side. While family and friends gathered in the light of the rooms below, Maria Mitchell gazed up into the stars. That night, Mitchell discovered a telescopic comet, invisible to the naked eye. This event propelled her to fame and changed the face of science and education throughout the world.
The Maria Mitchell Association was founded by some of her former students, family members, and admirers in 1902 (some time after Maria Mitchell’s death in 1889.) Today, the organization bearing her name strives to continue her legacy through preservation of her birthplace and papers, astronomical and natural science research, and interactive, hands-on educational programs for all ages.
Located on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, the MMA serves both visitors, seasonal and year-round residents. Now celebrating over a century of discovery, the MMA is dedicated to opening up the universe to curious minds, and allowing people to see what before was unseen. Our simple motto – “Explore, Educate, Enjoy” – captures the essence of our programs and activities.
“The Mission of the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association is promotion of the legacy of Maria Mitchell and exploration, education and enjoyment of Nantucket’s land, waters and skies beyond. In fulfilling our mission we recognize the historic persona of Maria Mitchell, the foremost American woman scientist and educator of the 19th century, and her potential impact on contemporary thought by passing on her legacy of intellectual curiosity, respect for and love of nature, learning by doing, and the ideal of individualism.
Maria Mitchell’s contributions to astronomy, science, and education are the basis for our continuing tradition of high quality research and teaching which inspires today’s learners and tomorrow’s scientists. The NMMA provides scientific resources and educational programs for the community, uses Nantucket Island as an exceptional natural laboratory in which to study science and the environment, and maintains research and/or representative collections of Nantucket’s biodiversity.
We strive to delight our members, supporters, and visitors by providing high quality programs, services, and facilities. We strive to ensure our financial viability and the preservation of our buildings and important collections so that current and future generations can share in this legacy. We strive to collaborate with other institutions (both on- and off-island) to share relevant organizational assets to accomplish these objectives, obtain cost efficiencies, and reduce our impact on the environment.”