Those singing Berkshire County's praises never forget to point out its constellation of cultural jewels — attractions like Mass MoCA, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Clark Art Institute, Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow and a host of other venues that lift the spirit and enrich the soul. Now comes the latest addition to that sparkling diadem, the Museum of Dog in North Adams.
The brainchild of Connecticut transplant David York, an inveterate dog lover who suddenly found himself loaded down with excess canine memorabilia and no place to put it, the Museum of Dog landed in north county because Mr. York was charmed by the area's beauty (another Berkshires asset). In the true spirit of "build it and they will come," the future museum director purchased the former Crystal Hardhat Saloon on Union Street to house his collection of antique dog collars, artworks, photography and presumably any other curiosities he manages to dig up from his stash. While the overwhelming majority of the displays will come from Mr. York's own collection, there will also be rotating dog-oriented exhibits to keep enthusiasts barking for more.
Before writing the Museum of Dog off as a flight of canine fancy, consider the following: Lots of people love dogs. More people probably love dogs, in fact, than love model trains and contemporary architecture — which happen to be the theme of the latest visionary product from the fertile mind of local museum developer Tom Krens. And Mr. Krens, the father of Mass MoCA, has a gut instinct for knowing what attracts crowds.
Also, Mr. York is not asking for any help from the city, private non-profit foundations, or the Massachusetts Cultural Council; he's funding the MoD on his own, along with two dachshund-festooned stretch limos to haul visitors to the museum. Moreover, the museum is taking a cue from some of its more prestigious brethren by repurposing a disused building.
There are museums all over the world that expose visitors to, and share the love for, quirky things. Who'd have imagined the enormous popularity, for example, of the Mata Shoe Museum in Toronto? You don't have to be Imelda Marcos to be captivated by the Mata's exhibit of trick sneakers worn by American special forces in Vietnam that left backwards footprints, duping the Viet Cong into thinking the troops were traveling in the opposite direction. And how about the World's Biggest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kan.? Though getting to the shrine of twine is a bit of a hike from I-70, a steady stream of through travelers nevertheless detours to marvel at it.
One cannot help but respect and admire an enthusiast whose passion for his subject impels him to put up his own financing in order to share it with others. According to Statista, approximately 89.7 million dogs live in U.S. households as pets, which comprises a not-insignificant cohort of potential museum-goers.
It isn't too much of a stretch to envision the MoD and the city someday becoming a kind of Mecca for all things dog; perhaps North Adams might eventually snag the American Kennel Club's world-renowned National Championship Dog Show. There are, after all, a few other museums around that dog-lovers could visit during their pilgrimage to the Berkshires.
Once the Museum of Dog opens in early 2018, Berkshirites will have even more to brag about than they already do. We welcome Mr. York and his vision to the county, and wish him well in his endeavor.