PITTSFIELD — Fun, educational, family-friendly — these may not be the words you choose to associate with the current election campaign and debate season. But the Berkshire Museum has been doing its part to offer patrons a less complicated, non-partisan, civically-minded way at looking at the ways democracy and politics in our country can function.
On Sept. 7, Wally the museum's model stegosaurus mascot made an announcement that he was running for office, and throughout the month, other museum figures and staff joined in announcing their campaigns, leading up to a mini-election.
This past Saturday, the museum hosted a "Let's Vote!" event, a kid-friendly way to learn about the moving parts of the U.S. government.
And at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, the Berkshire Museum will join The Eagle in hosting a free community screening of the final presidential debate, previewed with a panel discussion regarding some of the top policies and issues facing the nation.
Kimberly Donoughe, the museum's marketing and brand manager for its community engagement department helped facilitate the first two programs.
"I thought it would be a fun opportunity to get kids engaged, and parents to get engaged through their kids, about understanding their civic duty in elections," Donoughe said. "It hasn't been a very fun election so far."
The museum's candidates ran a "Berkshire Museum Party" primary, which featured light-hearted social media memes, some with tongue-in-cheek campaign statements. Wally's opponents included Pahat, the museum's mummy, who has "thousands of years of experience"; Chuck the aquarium's red-footed tortoise, marble statue the Veiled Rebecca, Old Bill the taxidermy moose, and Guest Services Manager Brent Ashby, "the only living human" in the race.
Paper ballots were cast as well as online "love" votes in a Facebook poll.
"We were actually surprised to find that it was a close race between Wally and Old Bill the Moose," Donoughe said.
On Saturday, the "Let's Vote" event drew a smaller crowd inside on a warm sunny day, and let patrons explore activities such as how a voting booth works, branches of the government, and sound off about what they would do if they were president. Patrons ages 18 and up could register to vote. "Schoolhouse Rock!" videos relative to government were screened. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts professor of history, political science and public policy Samantha Pettey, was on hand to field questions.
Harry Park, public program specialist for the museum, is helping to coordinate Wednesday debate watching event.
"We thought it would be great to note only invite people to come together and watch the debate as a community, but to have a panel to make it more meaningful," he said. "Anyone can stay at home and watch or be on social media ... but with a panel people can come and participate. It gives viewers more context and more ideas to keep in mind when watching the debate."