Letter: Many questions for the Berkshire Museum's board
The excellent reporting in Friday's Eagle shows us that the Berkshire Museum's board of directors had already decided to sell off its most valuable artwork weeks before it took a vote on the matter. Its lawyer wrote a letter in June to the Massachusetts attorney general listing the artworks and alleging that their sale would not affect the Museum's mission. I fervently hope that the attorney general looks carefully at the timing of the letter and the subsequent vote.
At its July 12 meeting, four members of the 24 member board were absent. Was that because they already knew the outcome of the vote, or because they were too busy to attend and make known their views on this crucial decision? Who were they? And who was the board member who abstained when the vote was taken, and why?
A board of 24 members seems unwieldy. Are there that many local citizens with the training, background, and sustained interest to guide the museum? Most boards of directors attract people with expertise as well as those with money. How much in donations have the current board members contributed in the past, and how much have they pledged to give in the future?
The board must have had expert advice to choose which of its most valuable items to sell. Who was its art advisor and how much was this advisor paid? When did it hire this advisor, and when did the board decide to sell the art instead of looking for other ways to raise funds? Why did it decide no capital campaign could raise money when it didn't even try?
Why wasn't an appeal made to the Berkshire community of the overarching demand for funds and a statement about the change in the mission? Why did it keep all this secret until it was a fait accompli? One obvious reason is that it anticipated public opposition to the art sale and thus didn't disclose its plans until it had signed an ironclad contract with Sotheby's.
Couldn't the artwork stay at the museum and be displayed for the public to appreciate while these grand plans are being decided? It seems there are least a couple of years before anything is going to happen. Will the money be sitting in an investment account all that time -- instead of the art hanging on our museum's walls?
There are many questions the directors must answer before the art is sold and lost forever. First, they need to answer to the attorney general.
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