EASTHAM — As a gallery of works by the Eastham Painters Guild rolls by on the screen, your eyes are held by those of Aspinet, the Nauset sachem who befriended the Separatists — now we call them Pilgrims — who washed ashore here four centuries ago. In his portrait by Jody Shyllberg, Aspinet is thoughtful and a bit rueful.
That’s not a bad perspective with which to view the Guild’s commemoration of the event, “Picture Perfect: 400 Years of Eastham,” available at easthampaintersguild.com as part of the Eastham 400 commemoration of the first encounter of the newcomers with the resident population.
The virtual exhibit of paintings by Guild members is one example of how the Eastham 400 Committee is coping with the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. The thoughtful planning that went into the roster of events has encountered the rueful awareness that changes are needed.
The art exhibit has moved online and will run through the summer rather than just for one month. The 10-minute sunset presentations of Eastham’s history at First Encounter Beach every evening starting on Memorial Day weekend will be recorded for later viewing or live-streaming. The Cape Cod Genealogy Society’s canceled March 29 event at the library may return as a virtual event.
The Elizabeth Tilley shallop, a replica of the vessel that brought the Pilgrims to their first encounter with the Nauset in Eastham, is still on track to visit Provincetown and Rock Harbor in July. In an update after the commemoration committee’s April 27 meeting, chair Jim Russo wrote that his group and the Pilgrim John Howland Society are “both very aware that there are a multitude of circumstances that can change our plans at the last minute.”
On the other hand, some events seem to be enhanced by the current situation. Vice chair Tom Ryan told the committee that a group of young adults is still interested in hosting a couple of open houses to highlight the historic personages interred in the Cove Burying Ground. After all, he noted drolly, “they’re usually buried six feet from each other.”
Cape Cod National Seashore Volunteer Coordinator Sue Moynihan had less optimistic news. “We have lost some significant funding,” she said. Eastern National, which run stores at parks, “has had a tremendous financial loss and curtailed donations to the park.” The Wampanoag Day planned for Labor Day weekend has been postponed, and the August appearance of the Cape Symphony Orchestra is not certain.
“Because we are nested under the federal and state governments,” Moynihan said, “a number of these decisions will not be ours to make.”
The Eastham Historical Society, which has been planning a full summer of exhibits, talks, and other events, met this week to discuss options. Last week, the society’s Patty Donohoe told the committee the centerpiece this year is a display of Native American artifacts “all found in Eastham over at the Salt Pond. They’re up to 9,000 years old.” Eastham Public Library Director Debra DeJonker-Berry suggested that archaeologist Dan Zoto could offer a virtual tour of the exhibit and answer questions in a Zoom session.
Russo suggested that the society hold some of its talks on the Schoolhouse Museum’s lawn, with proper seating separation. This summer, he said, people may see a grid on the Windmill Green demarcating seating areas for concerts.
The 400 committee will meet again via Zoom on May 18.