Berkshire Museum honors those who have promoted county's heritage


Photo Gallery: The Berkshire Awards at the Berkshire Museum

PITTSFIELD -- A local college professor, local environmentalist and a family of local business owners were honored at the second annual Berkshire Awards.

Frances Jones-Sneed, who's work has brought to light black history in the county, channeled Pittsfield Rev. Samuel Harrison in accepting her award Friday night at Berkshire Museum.

"I have met no warmer friends than the friends that I've met here in the Berkshires," Jones-Sneed told a capacity crowd in the museum auditorium.

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts professor of history was instrumental in the creation of the first African-American Heritage Trail in Western New England.

In 2006, Jones-Sneed and others spearheaded a National Endowment for the Humanities-funded book project which focussed on local black history.

"Frances was among a team that brought scholars from around the country to MCLA for intellectual pursuits and information sharing about this important piece of our history," MCLA President Mary Grant said in a video about Jones-Sneed's accomplishments. "[She] opened up our Berkshire backyard to scholars who had no idea about the deep, rich history of the African American experience here."

Jones-Sneed has written and edited books on black history in New England and presently continues work on books on W.E.B. Du Bois and Harrison. She's facilitating MCLA's ongoing speaker series, "Creating Equality."

If not for Friday's second honoree, the Berkshires might look like a very different place.

Deemed a "pioneer" in the land trust movement, George S. Wislocki helped found the Berkshire Natural Resource Council in 1967 with former Eagle publisher Donald B. Miller and then served as its first executive director and its president until 2001.

The BNRC today protects more than 19,027 acres.

"George provided the shoulders that the entire conservation movement in the Berk-
shires now stands upon," said college professor Erik Bruun. "In the 1960s, conservation was a fairly abstract concept. His greatest accomplishment is the spirit he brought to environmentalism -- the ‘happy warrior' element. There are things that aren't here because of George, and unless you were here at the time, you wouldn't know that they were stopped. He was fabulous at having an enemy and galvanizing the forces."

Woodlands in Dalton, farmland in Monterey, the Greylock Glen in Adams and Olivia's Overlook and the Yoken Ridge in West Stockbridge comprise just a few prized swaths Wislocki fought to defend.

The innovative Nash family -- Suzanne, her late husband Kenneth and sons Leo, Mitch and Seth -- took home the evening's final award.

Seth and Mitch own the Pittsfield-based design and manufacturing company Blue Q, and the family supports a host of local cultural institutions, including Berkshire Museum, IS183, Community Access to the Arts, the Colonial Theatre, Jacob's Pillow, Mass MoCA, Tanglewood and WordxWord.

Leo designs lighting for the film industry and curated the Berkshire Museum's current exhibit "Objectify: A Look Into the Permanent Collection."

Museum Executive Director Van Shields said the museum "started a conversation" with the inaugural awards ceremony last year.

Awards recognize "people who have created, kept, or promoted our artistic, historic and natural heritage."

"People who inspired others to follow others in their footsteps generation after generation, so that our children's children's children will come to know and love this place as much as we all do," Shields said.

To reach Phil Demers:
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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