Spotted Water Hemlock
Collected by Edward Burgess (1855–1928)
Head of Lagoon Pond
Gift of Mrs. Edward Burgess
In its early years, the resort town of Cottage City (now Oak Bluffs) offered both entertainment and education. From 1878 to 1906 the Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute presented courses in art, languages, and science, all taught by professors who were "among the best educators in the land."
The Summer Institute was founded by Homer Sprague, headmaster of Girls High School in Boston. Sprague lived on the Vineyard during the summer and seized the chance to establish a school that would operate during the high season. He built an impressive three-story structure in the Highlands area of Oak Bluffs and placed the large black letters "M.V.S.I." across the façade.
One among those who taught there was botanist Edward Burgess, who also taught at Johns Hopkins University and later at Hunter College in New York City. In addition to teaching, he collected and mounted 245 botanical specimens from Martha's Vineyard between 1885 and 1893, creating an invaluable record of the plants that lived in the waters, forests, and shores of the Island.
Painter Amelia Watson (1856–1934) was another teacher at the Summer Institute. From the institute's founding in 1878 until 1902, she taught drawing and painting there. The Museum's collection includes fifty-four works by the artist. Primarily watercolor sketches, they show scenes from all over the Island.