Letter: As museum evolves children must come first
I stopped by the Berkshire Museum this past week as part of my trip down memory lane. I stop on most occasions when visiting the area because of the memories I have of it. I am still connected to the museum emotionally; my family members and I support its activities. My grandchildren enjoyed a week summer program. I recently learned about the changes proposed for the museum and the passions these changes have aroused in the community.
I loved the museum from the time I was a boy. It was a familiar home for me to explore. There was no other museum in the Berkshires in those days. Now in Berkshire County I see many museums competing with each other for attendance and funds.
I spent many, many hours in the Berkshire Museum as a young boy. It was a place where my parents knew I would be safe and could either entertain myself or be educated by the staff. I spent most of my time looking at the objects dealing with natural history and the history of the Berkshires. I rarely spent any time looking at the art.
These hours spent developed in me a lifelong appreciation of nature and history. It did the same for my mother growing up in Pittsfield in the 1910s and '20s. She would often take my sister and me on long nature walks and was able to identify plants and birds well into her 80s due in no small part to the influence of the Berkshire Museum.
My sister has a different recollection as a child in the Northern Berkshires. She spent much of her time looking at the art. However, when my sister and I grew up the Berkshires, there were no world-class art museums such as the Clark and Mass MoCA. These and other nearby art-focused institutions drive and satisfy the visitors' thirst for art in ways with which the small collection held by the Berkshire Museum cannot compete.
Now the museum is faced with the prospect of making itself over into a different type of institution to meet the needs of a community very different than when we were children. I hope the proposed changes will meet the needs of today's children and allow them to become more creative, curious and comfortable with technology in ways I still do not comprehend. Steven Lubar's recent book, "Inside the Lost Museum," challenges museums to make a difference in their communities. These changes will continue that role for the Berkshire Museum.
When my wife and I left the museum last week, I was thrilled to see more than 30 children accompanied by parents, grandparents and caregivers arriving for a program. For me, that is what the Berkshire Museum is all about. These children don't have a voice in this debate but they will be impacted as the controversy continues.
Please keep these children in mind as this great community resource evolves while concentrating its focus.
Old Lyme, Ct.
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