Letter: A prescription for the Berkshire Museum
With the recent release of museum documents, it is clear to all objective observers that the Berkshire Museum's board made a grave error in following the likely persuasive lead of its director and board president. We now know the motivation was a big money project vs. pursuing the options presented that solve the stated problem. This is a clear ethical lapse on the part of the director, the president and other board members that have pushed this plan disingenuously. While ethical behavior is highly valued by many of us, the current climate in our society might lead people to think and act otherwise. We must not allow this to become the norm.
Happily, there is a simple solution if enough members of the board are willing to form a majority:
— Take the paintings back at no financial harm thanks to the AG's actions.
— Fundraise within the board to pay back what was wasted on consultants and lawyers to support this predetermined plan.
— Remove the board members that have been acting to push this plan along with the director and the president.
— Replace them with museum and art folks who can restore the museum's reputation.
—Fundraise in the $20 million range to support placing the Rockwells on permanent loan in Stockbridge. While these paintings are valuable on the market, as works they are not nearly as important as the 19th-century American art the museum would keep.
—Use those funds which are not associated with deaccession to shore up the museum's finances and hire a proper curatorial staff.
—Mount shows that leverage the value of the collection resulting in reinvigorated attendance, membership and giving.
It takes very little creativity to imagine the amazing shows possible with this collection. Two generations of Peales could be used to show the importance of family and developing a trade that could be tied to the Crane's legacy.
The traveling Hudson valley artists surely met local artists on their trips. There must be collections in Santa Fe, California or the Caribbean that would collaborate with such a strong collection.
For history and science, pursue the "curio cabinet," the one good idea in the new vision, to tell a story about the interaction of art, artifacts and everyday objects, using the very strong collection in all three areas. This is an art world trend that may be in decline but could be used to educate local youth. A qualified curatorial staff could draw a line from 16th century Florence through 17th-century Amsterdam to the Luce center at the Met and even across the collecting world. Even the mummy can be tied to this theme. Its cotton, all the way from Egypt, has fueled a company that funded the founding of this very museum!
I am certain the community would accept an apology if made with humility and honesty. Only then can the museum repair its reputation and save the collection whose value the current board is ignorant of.
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