Berkshire Museum chief Van Shields on medical leave through 2017

Berkshire Museum Executive Director Van Shields, shown at July's announcement of a plan to reinvent the museum, will be on medical leave through the end of the year beginning next week.

PITTSFIELD — Daily operations of the Berkshire Museum will shift to new hands next week, when its executive director starts a medical leave.

The museum announced Tuesday that Van Shields is preparing to undergo surgery for an undisclosed health issue.

Starting Oct. 31, two staff members will become acting co-executive directors.

Shields' leave will run "through approximately the end of the year," according to Carol Bosco Baumann, a spokeswoman for the museum.

His absence comes as the museum approaches the start of a series of New York City auctions. It plans to sell works from its collection and use the proceeds to build its endowment and help finance a renovation and redesign.

The museum also must respond to a lawsuit filed last week challenging the sales. A Nov. 1 hearing has been set on a motion in Berkshire Superior Court that seeks a temporary restraining order halting auctions at Sotheby's in Manhattan.

Nina Garlington and Craig Langlois will act as co-executive directors during Shields' absence, the museum said.

Garlington is the museum's chief engagement officer. Langlois is its chief experience officer.

The South Street institution's board will oversee financial and other issues.

Elizabeth McGraw, president of the board, said in a statement she wishes Shields "a swift and complete recovery."

"In his absence, trustees and the Museum's dedicated and experienced management team, led by Nina and Craig, are well-prepared to keep the museum on course with its current operations and New Vision plan," McGraw said.

The "New Vision" refers to a planned shift to emphasize multimedia and interactive exhibits in the fields of science and natural history.

Reach staff writer Larry Parnass at 413-496-6214 or @larryparnass.

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Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.