The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Announces Future Aquarium & Discovery Center
The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) announced preliminary plans to move and expand their Aquarium on October 7, 2023. The new expansion will be located at 33 Washington Street and will incorporate 4 of the existing buildings on the site. The reimagined space will feature hands-on and experiential learning opportunities, an expanded, state-of-the-art aquarium and marine biology lab, rotating exhibits highlighting the history of Maria Mitchell and her role in history, community gathering spaces, and improved residential housing for MMA staff. The MMA will permanently close the 28 Washington Street Aquarium site and open a temporary aquarium during the construction phase of the new MMA Aquarium and Discovery Center.
Due to its location on Washington Street, one of the most frequently flooded areas on the island, the MMA is uniquely positioned to adopt a leadership role in coastal resiliency. The Association has been working with resiliency experts, engineers, designers, and other experts to calculate a plan that would manage flooding and drainage in the area based on the 100-year storm. “We are committed to our role in scientific education, lifelong learning, and the preservation of Maria Mitchell’s legacy,” says Joanna Roche, Executive Director. The MMA Discovery Center and Aquarium will be the most visible, public-facing center for discovery and science focused on STEM education on Nantucket.
For more than forty years, the MMA Aquarium has inspired explorers of all ages to protect the Nantucket Sound’s natural ecosystem through living exhibits, marine science programming, and environmental education. Its mission is to connect people to nature through the sky, land, and sea of Nantucket Island. Within this time, the Maria Mitchell Association made a land swap with the Nantucket Islands Land Bank – 28 Washington Street, for 33 Washington Street – with the long-term intention of developing a larger aquarium and discovery center. In November 2023, the lease for 28 Washington Street will end and the MMA will begin their planning efforts to reimagine the 33 Washington Street property. The Maria Mitchell Association plans to formally announce its capital campaign in 2024 and has been working with CCS of Boston on campaign planning and feasibility.
The Maria Mitchell Association was founded in 1902 to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and 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 female professor of astronomy at Vassar College. Maria Mitchell believed in “learning by doing” and today that philosophy is reflected in the MMA’s mission statement, programs, research projects, and other activities. The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, a research center, 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.