To the editor:
I have always revered the Berkshire Museum. I began to experience its wonders around age eight by participating in the quizzes on Saturday mornings studying wildlife displays while searching for answers to the quiz questions. In my mid-30s I joined the Hoffmann Bird Club that was born at the museum under the aegis of the science curator in 1940. At the time the Stamp Club, the Mineral Club and the Camera Club were meeting there as well. Many of us became members of the museum because of our association through the clubs. I also was a volunteer in the aquarium for 19 years.
It has been said that the changes planned for the museum will be good for the community, but the museum has not always had the community's interest at heart.
Some years ago the Stamp Club and the Hoffmann Bird Club were asked to leave, purportedly due to security reasons at night. The Mineral Club had meetings frequently in North Adams at that time. The Camera Club was allowed to continue its association with the museum with no explanation for the reason to the other clubs. Previous to that time the museum dropped its sponsorship of the Pittsfield Art Association and followed by doing the same to the Berkshire Art Association. I believe the museum lost many dues-paying members because of its unfriendly practices involving local people.
When I ceased my 19-year stint of volunteer work I was not sent renewal notices, so I gave up my membership. My family and I have attended the Little Cinema for 40 years, enjoying many movies there. During the last year or so the Little Cinema attractions have not been advertised and we've noticed a distinct drop-off in attendance. While I know that the incidents that I have cited would not bail the museum out of its problems it does indicate to me its lack of financial acuity and care for the local community.
Many ideas have been put forth to ease the financial burden that are less drastic than selling outstanding art, but none is being considered. I am so sorry for the museum's lack of appreciation and communication with the community for which it is creating a new entity that is not supported by many of us.