Letter: Bold change assures future of museum
We think The Berkshire Museum's plan to sell part of its collection to move its future forward makes a lot of sense and we totally support it.
The decision wasn't an easy one for Van Shields and company, certainly; divesting art is a hot potato in the museum world, and we get it. But we participated in some of the museum's focus groups to research the big picture and were impressed with their deep and methodical process. Nothing was assumed, everything was questioned, and many conceptual options were considered.
The conclusion: We have an old building that needs a major redesign to do new things, plus a larger endowment to support it. Virtually every other museum in the county has gone through this transformative process, albeit with larger endowments and perhaps sexier missions that catch the eye of fatter wallets.
To us, the proposed changes justify the means. The architects on the case are brilliant. The new, modern front of the building will be gorgeous. By relocating the theater, the core of the building will have a vaulted, dramatic axis for everything to rotate around (take a look on the museum website). This, and the new programing that can then ensue, including art, which the museum is NOT walking away from, will take the museum to the moon. Sounds like an exciting moment for Pittsfield, don't you think? And it's significant that the museum's plan includes increasing its endowment, because expansion requires steadier cash flow.
But back to the topic of selling this to pay for that. Maybe the sentimental attachment to things requires exceptions. Because this museum's fighting for relevance and larger audiences. It's tough out there. We can't imagine Norman Rockwell would argue with selling some of his paintings to help make this happen. A world-class museum devoted to his work is just down the road, isn't it? Excellent!
The Berkshire Museum's visions require the full gamut of financial tools. Otherwise, it'll be merely a very good regional museum forever, if it's lucky. Because the world isn't too kind to things that don't boldly change. Museums are creative businesses in a fast-changing, competitive environment for people's attention. The hungry customer is in charge here, not the stuffy sentimentalist.
Our family has been involved with the Berkshire Museum in one way or another for over 60 years. We have fond memories of being dragged through the halls to learn, and witnessed a million changes. This is arguably the one that's going to make the biggest difference. We say: Do it.
Seth and Mitch Nash,
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