Letter: Museum trustees, city will lose this war

Posted
To the editor:

There are many troubling aspects to the sale of art treasures by the Berkshire Museum. Lawsuits, protests and letters from those who care deeply about the sale sadly did not stop the juggernaut of the museum's trustees to do what they want to do with irreplaceable masterpieces. In order to raise what the trustees claim is money needed to maintain the museum and change it into something incompatible with its charter, they are charging full speed ahead with their secretive and dubious objective.

In pursuing their aim, the trustees slandered those who oppose the sale as elitists, while proving that they are the elitists by simultaneously alleging that Berkshire County schools provide a substandard science and technology education to our students. Only the Berkshire Museum can save these children, they said, to the tune of $55 million.

A word of caution is provided by a recent article in The Washington Post, which outlined the qualities that Amazon is looking for when it builds a second headquarters. To attract top-level talent, the company is valuing cultural amenities.

From the article: "Art museums — which these days are much more than just places to look at art — play an outsize role in satisfying (potential employees). Their prestige and prominence make them prime tourist destinations. Their health and quality are also tied up with civic pride, with what makes a city desirable to live in. Just ask the people of Detroit. They almost lost whole chunks of their art museum's world-renowned collection when the city declared bankruptcy a few years ago. The collection, owned by the city, was considered an asset that could be sold off to pay the pensions of city employees. That nightmare scenario was averted, thankfully; the blow to civic pride would have been irreparable, its cascading consequences immeasurable."

The Berkshire Museum trustees' obstinate determination to sell off its assets will not be forgotten. They have already made the museum a pariah in the eyes of other museums and cultural bodies. At least one book will be written about this titanic struggle, and case studies will be taught at graduate schools of law, business and arts administration.

In the end, "Pittsfield" will be linked to an obdurate pursuit of money at the expense of community. The trustees may think they've won a battle, but they've lost in every respect except their bank account.

Sally White,

Williamstown





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