Letter: Sale of art heritage sets bad precedent
As if it isn't enough to bear the insanity of the Berkshire Museum secretly voting to sell the public's fine collection of art, it has challenged the wisdom and earned the condemnation of the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors by its unprecedented intentions. Christopher Knight, art critic for the Los Angeles Times and former Berkshire County resident, wrote an informative article titled "Why a Massachusetts museum selling its prized Norman Rockwell painting should worry museums everywhere."
He wrote, "The plan is unethical the public owns the [Rockwell] painting, along with all the rest scheduled to go on the block, starting in November." He further suggests that the Berkshire Museum start to behave like the charitable institution it is supposed to be and "spend the next several years responsibly overseeing the dispersal of the collection."
I applaud Mr. Knight for sharing his reasoned arguments for not selling off our county's jewels. He and I differ on one opinion only: He said he lived just down the road from the Berkshire Museum but says he wasn't much enamored of it. Perhaps he is that much younger than me, because he surely missed the collections I enjoyed in the1950s. But then, I am a biologist.
When I was a child my dad often took me to that museum. My favorite spot? An enormous window-lined room with glass display cases around its perimeter showcasing thousands of shells in breathtaking colors and shapes from all over the world. Pausing every few feet to read labels identifying species and places of origin, my imagination transported me to the very beaches of the oceans from which they were culled. I've often wondered what became of that amazing collection and wish I could recall the person who donated it, though the notion alone that the donor was female inspired me.
I can tell you it was curated with a magnificence that will surely be lost when electronic gizmos are installed to visually or audibly stimulate young museum visitors. Silent dioramas or displays of natural wonders and all works of art may seem too tame or subtle for some, yet how else do children learn to tap into their creativity or simply reflect on the world around us, and come to understand their stewardship of it?
As a permanent resident of this community, I add my voice to those who wish to stop the sale of our fine art from the Berkshire Museum. If the museum cannot make it, I agree with Mr. Knight that its fine collection be added to other local institutions for the continued enjoyment of area residents and visitors as it was intended.