To the editor:
The Berkshire Museum's decision to sell many of its valuable paintings to obtain operation funds raises concerns. Its executive director, Mr. Van Shields, was hired to lead a reorganization of this museum's mission from art, culture, and natural history to a more science-based platform. He is also a driving force to sell 40 of the museum's valuable artworks for the purpose of increasing its financial endowment and securing operation funds. My concern is that Mr. Shields has a dubious history in such actions given his previous position as director and CEO of the Culture & Heritage Museums in Rock Hill, S. C. where a similar effort failed.
My understanding is that Norman Rockwell donated his paintings with the understanding that they would become part of the permanent collection and be displayed for the enjoyment of visitors. I believe the word "permanent" meant that these paintings would be part of the museum for as long as it existed. I further believe that if Mr. Rockwell thought that his paintings could be sold because a new director wanted to change the museum's culture, he would have stipulated that such paintings were on loan only and would be returned to him or his heirs when they were no longer deemed central to the museum's artistic nature.
Such beautiful art created by esteemed individuals is a gold mine that would draw many thousands of paying visitors each year if promoted correctly. The museum must make a concerted effort to promote and advertise in diverse venues, especially during the tourist season. Such promotions have been lacking — and as such, are missed opportunities for increased funds.
The leaders of the Berkshire Museum are mistaken in their belief that selling the museum's collection of such valuable art is the best way to obtain funds to maintain its financial health. This reasoning is flawed because such art has proven to generate a continuous flow of people willing to pay to see it and is the kind of art that many museums can only wish they possessed.