Maria Mitchell Birthday celebration
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Celebrating Maria’s Birthday

This Sunday, August 1, 2021 marks the 203rd birthday of Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer. Unfortunately, last year due to pandemic restrictions, the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) was forced to cancel her birthday open house that the MMA has been hosting since they opened their doors to the public on 1903.

While there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel with restrictions being lifted, this year the MMA felt it was safest to delay their large in-person open house celebration one more year. Typically, Maria Mitchell’s Birthday Open House sees an average of 300 people visiting MMA sites on Vestal Street to enjoy music, birthday refreshments, free museum visits, and a variety of activities and displays for children, families, and adults.

To mark her birthday this year, the MMA has devised a trio of activities (with prizes) designed to allow Maria’s birthday festivities to go on while maintaining social distancing and other public safety measures: a historical family scavenger hunt, a photo contest, and a drawing contest!

The family scavenger hunt will lead participants on a tour of some of the places where Maria lived, worked, or made new discoveries. Participants can pick up a scavenger hunt map from the brochure box on Vestal Street across from the Research Center, or from one of our open properties, or it can be downloaded from the MMA website at

Participants can drop off their completed scavenger hunt sheets in the box outside the Vestal Street Observatory by noon on Saturday, August 14. On Monday, August 16, the MMA will randomly select a completed and correct form and the winner will receive a 2022 MMA Family Membership! Scavenger hunts are a great activity for all ages. And, it’s an activity that was very popular in the nineteenth century, though back then it was more along the line of letterboxing and orienteering. 

Another way to celebrate Maria’s birthday this year is to participate in the MMA photo contest. One of the organization’s core missions is to create opportunities for all to develop a life-long passion for science through education, research, and firsthand exploration of the sky, land, and sea of Nantucket Island. In keeping with this mission, the theme of the photo contest is Natural Nantucket. Photos of anything and everything natural and/or native to Nantucket – natural resources, landscapes, flora, fauna, sky, land, sea – are welcome. Though most famous as an astronomer, Maria Mitchell was also a naturalist with profound interest in Nantucket’s flora and fauna. By entering this photo contest, participants can reflect on what Maria Mitchell and the Maria Mitchell Association means to them. 

This contest has a division for teens (ages 13- 18) and one for adults (ages 18+). One winner will be selected from each division. Winners will have their work featured on MMA’s social media channels and will receive a 2022 MMA Family Membership along with a new MMA hat. Entries may be posted using the Google form found on MariaMitchell. org through Saturday, August 14, 2021. The winners of each division will be announced and prizes will be distributed on Monday, August 16, 2021. To learn more about the rules of the contest or make an entry, please visit 

For the youngest members of the family, the MMA is hosting a drawing contest for children under 12. Similar to the photo contest, the theme of this contest is Natural Nantucket. The MMA invites participants to create hand-drawn or digital artwork inspired by the stars/the sky, any natural feature, landscape, flora, or fauna occurring on Nantucket, and submit their artwork using the Google form on

This contest will have a division for children ages 7 and under, and children ages 8-12. Entries may be submitted until Saturday, August 14, 2021, and the winners of each division will be announced and prizes distributed on Monday, August 16. Winners will have their work featured on our social media and receive a Maria Mitchell Association gift bag, including a 2022 MMA Family Membership and items from the gift shop. For more information or to make an entry, please visit 

The Maria Mitchell Association is a private non-profit organization. Founded in 1902, the MMA works to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell. 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.

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