A Special Thanks to Our Community Service Campers and Partners!

GreenGuardians_2This summer, in addition to our traditional Discovery Camp and Naturalist Leadership Program options, MMA also offered community service camps for 10 – 12 year olds and 13 – 16 year olds.  In these camps, participants had the opportunity to gain service hours needed for school, scout, and honor society requirements while exploring Nantucket and learning about the importance of land conservation.  Campers spentan hour or two in the morning completing a community service project and then would enjoy fun summer activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, geocaching, and more in the afternoons. 

For many years, our campers have enjoyed exploring the diverse properties of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation (NCF) and the Nantucket Islands Land Bank (NILB) and so this was an opportunity for us to give back a little and provide opportunities for our campers to learn more about our partners as well.  We were able to launch this program with the help and support of NCF and NILB and for that we are most grateful.  As it turned out, we were able to help a number of other community partners including the Nantucket Food Pantry, Safe Harbor for Animals, the Nantucket Community Garden, and the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church.  I am so proud of all of our instructors and campers and the inspiring projects they completed throughout the summer which include:

Trail maintenance
Invasive species removal
Shorebird enclosure removal
Beach Clean-ups

Beach clean-ups
Roadside litter removal

Community Garden/Food Pantry
Weeded two garden plots
Harvested and delivered vegetables for the Food Pantry

UU Church
Made up-cycled bags from old t-shirts as part of their program to help the food pantry

Safe Harbor for Animals
Painted canvasses for their art show to educate the community about the humane treatment of animals

To raise awareness about this effort, with help from the MMA’s Aquarium staff, campers also began building a large shark with scales made from cans collected around Nantucket.  After this art project is completed in 2016, it will become an exhibit at the MMA  Aquarium and there is still time for you or your child to be a part of it.  We hope you will join us next summer as we continue to pay it forward in the Nantucket community.  

What a Great Summer Season!

water safteyIt is that time of year again. The summer madness is coming to an end and our little island is getting ready for a much quieter fall.  The Maria Mitchell Association has especially had a wonderful summer season.  We brought Dogfish sharks to the Aquarium, added extra camp programs, introduced a new executive director, introduced the Speaker Series every week in August and September, completed the conservation of the Library exterior, hosted the Nantucket Red-Tie Soirée, and overall promoted the legacy of Maria Mitchell through exploration, education, and enjoyment of Nantucket.  We have definitely been busy! 

None of our growth or progress would be possible if it were not for our amazing interns.  After receiving hundreds of applications for the varied internship positions, we accepted twenty-seven interns, including the REU Astronomy students, and welcomed them to Nantucket.  You might have seen them helping to run our museums, leading camp programs, providing you with a tour of the night sky, or out in the field collecting data. 

We would like to take this time to thank: Allie Bono, Christopher Coomey, Jordan McHugh, Julia Texiera, Tali Brennan, Sacha Pfevfer, Molly McDermott, Erik Lokensgard, Allison Gayo, Catherine Bradley, Brian Chesnut, Erin Downing, Ali Swan, Ben Loiselle, Caprice Phillips, Lily Evanston, Elisabeth Sorrows, Kim Mulvehill, Andrew Baik, Patrick Drew, John Weaver, Madison Smith, Missy McIntosh, Natalie Frendberg, Rayna Rampalli, Brendon Donoghue, Christine Seibert, Issac Hersh, and Lizzie Apala. We would not have been able to make this summer at the MMA so special without them.

Learn how you can become a summer intern with us here.

Maria Mitchell Association Completes Exterior Conservation of Former Science Library

Space to be converted to new Ecology Lab

Nantucket, MA The Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) has completed the conservation of the exterior of the Science Library  paving the way for construction of the new, year-round Ecology Lab.  The nearly $250,000 conservation effort was funded by a grant from the Nantucket Community Preservation Act.

The work included significant repairs to the roof and restoring it to its original 1933 condition. Engineer and masons worked to design and replace the steel lintels and repair the major cracks that undermined the 1930s stucco addition’s integrity.  The entire building was painted and portions of the structure were re-shingled. Due to the historical significance of the building which dates back to 1830, specialized craftsmen were needed to make the repairs.

With exterior work complete, the Maria Mitchell Association will start on the inside to convert the space to a year-round, Ecology Lab, the first of its kind on Nantucket.  The three quarter million dollar project will provide indoor classroom space to study natural sciences for students and citizen scientists.  Partial funding for the lab was provided by the Nantucket Golf Foundation, the Tupancy-Harris Foundation and individual donors.

The MMA Science Library served the MMA from 1920 through 2005 when it was closed due to a decrease in circulation and use.  The shingled portion was originally William Mitchell’s – father of Maria Mitchell – Schoolhouse in the 1830s and was moved to Vestal Street by the next owner.  It once served as the West Introductory School for the Town.  Once the MMA filled it to capacity with its growing collection of natural science, astronomy, and Nantucket related books, the need for more room arose and the stucco Wing was added in 1933.  Designed by island architect Alfred Shurrocks and built using the Natco System of terracotta tiles, the Wing as it is referred to, came to house the Special Collections, Maria Mitchell’s personal library and papers, the Mitchell family’s books and papers, and the MMA’s institutional archives in a fireproof space.

The Maria Mitchell Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of Maria Mitchell, America’s first women astronomer.  MMA provides hands-on learning science education to the children and citizen scientists of Nantucket.  It operates the Loines Observatory, the Maria Mitchell Observatory, the Natural Museum at Hinchman House and the Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium.  Additionally, it preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell and her historic documents and family artifacts. 

 Note:  Photography is available by calling Lauren Berlin at the Maria Mitchell Association at 508-228-9198 or by email at lberlin@mariamitchell.org


Maria Mitchell Association Recognized by Cape Cod Life Publications’

23rd Annual Best of the Cape & Islands Readers’ Choice Awards

Nantucket, MA- On May 18, 2015, the Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) was named the “Silver Winner in Family Activity” by Cape Cod Life Publications.  Dedicated readers of Cape Cod Life magazine voted for their favorite places on the Cape and Islands.  The MMA offers a unique selection of family programs for children of all ages.  Whether it is spending a morning on the beach collecting and identifying creatures from Nantucket’s waters or looking thorough our 24-inch research telescope, there is something at the MMA for everyone. 

“It is so great to be recognized by Cape Cod Life Magazine for the work we do to educate students on Nantucket,” says David Gagnon, Executive Director of the Maria Mitchell Association. “We strive to bring hands-on science education programs that are fun and educational for children and families. We put a lot of effort into making them great and it so nice to be recognized for that effort,” he adds.

Founded in 1902, the MMA is a private non-profit organization whose mission is the promotion of the legacy of Maria Mitchell and exploration, education and enjoyment of Nantucket’s land, waters, and skies beyond. The MMA operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. 

Science In Action- See for yourself

The Natural Science Museum was redesigned this last winter and one of the rooms was re configured to be a working lab space.  In many ways it is a tiny version of the Ecology Lab and Collections Facility that is being built in the old Science Library.Visitors learning about research in the ecology lab

We have gotten more use out of this lab space than expected and museum visitors have had enriching interactions with the students and researchers.

Andrew McCandless, a PhD candidate at Portland State University, has been sorting creatures collected from eelgrass. He has assistance from two local high school students.

In another project, two students are learning spider identification and will begin assisting with sorting spiders from the MMA’s spider collection.

Maria Mitchell intern and volunteer working on spider identificationStudetns and researchers working in the ecology lab.

“New Director of Astronomy at the Maria Mitchell Association”

“AAS photo © 2014 Joson Images”

“AAS photo © 2014 Joson Images”


Nantucket, MA- It is my distinct pleasure to announce that Dr. Regina Jorgenson will be joining the staff of the Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) as our next Director of Astronomy.  Dr. Jorgenson will replace Dr. Michael West who has taken a position as the Deputy Director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.   Dr. Jorgenson was selected from an extraordinary group of candidates and will be joining us on January 4, 2016 after finishing her obligations at Willamette University where she is a Visiting Professor. Dr. Jorgenson comments, “I am enthusiastic about working closely with undergraduate research collaborators, and am excited about utilizing the extraordinary Maria Mitchell Observatory facilities for our research.  As the new Director of Astronomy, I will consciously work to raise the national and international profile of the MMA via my collaborations in research, education, and outreach.  I will also bring my commitment to public outreach and advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) fields.”

Dr. Jorgenson is no stranger to Nantucket or the MMA.  In the late 1990’s, she was a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) intern under the tutelage of the MMA’s then Director of Astronomy, Dr. Strelnitski.  She later joined the MMA staff as the Assistant Director of the Maria Mitchell Observatory from 1999-2002. 

Dr. Jorgenson, much like Maria Mitchell, is an advocate for women in Physics and Astronomy.  After her undergraduate graduation, she received the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship which permitted her to spend a year traveling around the world exploring the question, “why are there so few women in physics and astronomy and the effects of culture on science”.  Needless to say, the MMA staff is very excited to have her return.

Dr. Jorgenson earned her Ph.D. in physics at UC San Diego, specializing in studies of galaxy formation and evolution.  She continued this work as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge and then won a prestigious National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship that she took to the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii.  There she used the largest optical telescopes in the world to obtain the first spectral images of normal galaxies in the early Universe.  

Although we have not set a date yet, the MMA is planning to host a reception on her behalf in January 2016.  We hope to see you there to welcome Dr. Regina Jorgenson to Nantucket and the MMA!


David Gagnon

Executive Director

Maria Mitchell’s Birthday Party

Untitled-1August 1st marks the 197th birthday of Maria Mitchell, who was born at 1 Vestal Street in 1818.  To celebrate her life and legacy, the Maria Mitchell Association invites the public to an afternoon full of free activities and refreshments on Friday July 31st.  The MMA campus on Vestal Street will be free to the public from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  Children’s activities will be offered throughout the afternoon including: face painting, tours, nature and astronomy-themed games and activities, and even insect races! 

Maria Mitchell was the first Mitchell child born at 1 Vestal St., the first librarian at the Nantucket Atheneum, the first woman to receive a gold medal from the King of Denmark for discovering a comet, one of the first women to work for the U.S. government, and the first woman to gain access to the Vatican’s Observatory.  Of course, she was also the first female astronomer in the U.S.,-best known for her discovery of a comet named Comet Mitchell and her service as the first female professor of Astronomy in the U.S. at Vassar College.  The MMA was founded in 1902 to promote and celebrate Mitchell’s legacy of learning-by-doing, women in education, and education sciences. 

Change in Admission Prices

Starting today, July 6th, nonmember visitors to any of the MMA museums will buy a pass that includes all of our properties, rather than paying admission to each museum individually. The pass is only $10 for adults and $8 for kids. We want to make it easy for visitors to see all our sites- there is so much to do and so much to learn! MMA members will of course continue to enjoy free admission to all our museums. Please drop by to see what is new!

12 Events to Note


The Nantucket Red-Tie Soirée has been featured by Nantucket BlACKbook as one of the top 12 events this summer.  Tickets are available on our webpage or by calling 508-228-9198.  Read more here

Director of Astronomy Leaving MMA

After over 2 and a half years at the Maria Mitchell Association, Dr. Michael West, Director of Astronomy, will be leaving MMA at the end of July to begin a new and exciting position as Deputy Director for Science at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. Lowell Observatory is where Pluto was discovered in 1930, and it’s also home to the new “Discovery Channel Telescope.” Additionally, the first observations of the expanding universe took place at Lowell.  It is interesting to note that Lowell Observatory shares a very similar mission as MMA with both institutions focusing their efforts and resources on astronomical research, as well as public outreach. Located just an hour from the Grand Canyon, the observatory receives more than 80,000 visitors per year. Dr. West noted that the combination of hands-on-learning and public outreach at MMA prepared him well for this opportunity. Michael’s presence at MMA will certainly be missed and we all wish him well.

We are pleased to report that a search to fill the astronomy position is already underway and we have received an excellent pool of candidates with exceptional experience. The search committee will be working diligently to fill this critical position as soon as possible.