Letter: Museum's strategy counter to economic principles

Posted
To the editor:

In Economics 101, everyone learns that it is a mistake to sell long-term assets to fund short-term operating expenses. Yet, we are to believe that Van Shields' deaccessioning plan to raise $60 million is a viable idea! Shields, who failed at his grandiose plans in Rock Hill, S.C., is on the verge of auctioning off our irreplaceable Rockwells and other Berkshire treasures so he can try again.

If we are to be presented with a museum refocused only on history and science, wouldn't the Rockwell paintings depict an important slice of our history? The world-famous creator of colorful mobiles, Alexander Calder, first exhibited at the museum. Wouldn't they be a nice way to illustrate some of the laws of physics such as balance and movement?

Supporters of Van Shields' vision cite the success of Mass MoCA but neglect to mention that its evolution involved renovating and repurposing derelict warehouse and factory buildings, not tearing up a beautiful, historic building and selling off its most valuable assets. Anyway, isn't Pittsfield making a major effort to preserve its original architecture?

While operating any museum without corporate funding or contributions from mega-donors requires more effort, it could be that community support would make a big impact. Our family and many of our friends have never received any membership solicitation, requests for help in funding via silent auctions, galas, or other commonly used methods for raising money. I understand, too, that there are no longer any docents, often the backbone of community support. Could it be that a less-than-vigorous effort has been made to raise money from locals?

To operate a grander museum would be far more costly than the museum we now have. It bears repeating that it would be a big mistake to sell off long-term assets to fund short-term operating expenses, even with renovation and a larger endowment fund thrown in. When the money is used up, and it will be, what will be sold to bridge the next fiscal crisis?

Carol Paul,

Williamstown



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