Berkshire Museum named affiliate of Smithsonian Institution

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Saturday June 1, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshire Museum has been named an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., which will provide the museum with a long-term collaborative link to the institute and access to the millions of historic items and artifacts that are housed in its national collection.

Van Shields, executive director of the Berkshire Museum, said the prestigious affiliation will begin immediately through the sharing of information, expertise, staffing resources and other assets with the Smithsonian. Display of items from the institute's massive collection of some 136 million objects will be worked into Berkshire Museum exhibits in the coming months, he said.

Berkshire Museum will become the only affiliated institution in Western Massachusetts, and one of only four that are affiliated in the entire state. Only 177 institutions located in 42 states are involved in the program.

Harold A. Closter, the director of Smithsonian Affiliations, will formally announce the affiliation at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 14. The announcement will take place during the opening reception for "Paperworks: The Art and Science of an Extraordinary Material", which is the Berkshire Museum's summer exhibition.

Shields said his staff already has gained much through the extensive process of applying for the affiliation, which included "a mini self study."

"I am very proud of my team," he added. "We made it happen."

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Shields, who had experience with the Smithsonian affiliation program at another institution, said initial collaborations could involve visiting presenters, experts on various subjects being available for consultation, and a level of access to the Smithsonian's collections and other resources.

There will be an effort to build a synergy in which exhibits at the museum are enhanced and creativity builds off the expanded offerings and expertise.

"The exciting partnership with the Smithsonian will make a visit to the Berkshire Museum even more rewarding and memorable," said U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, in a statement. "When Zenas Crane established the museum more than a century ago, he was inspired by an appreciation of the great museums of America and the Smithsonian makes his vision complete."

Crane, a member of the Dalton family that founded Crane & Co., established the museum in 1903.

William Hines Jr., president of the museum's board, termed the affiliation "a distinct honor," which "represents an exceptional opportunity to share the resources of the Smithsonian, an institution of international renown, with our community."

Shields said the affiliation program, established by the Smithsonian in 1996, involves long-term relationships with museums and cultural organizations around the nation and allows for display of more of the institution's collections at multiple sites.

The Berkshire Museum on South Street integrates art, history and natural science in exhibitions and a range of educational and other programs.

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