Letter: Contrite museum board should get art returned

To the editor:

I've been reading most, if not all, the articles, editorials and letters regarding Berkshire Museum's plans, and it must be clear to the majority of The Eagle's readers that the museum's Executive Director Van W. Shields, along with his board of directors, are ignoring them altogether. This I considered not only rude and upsetting, but more significant, suspicious.

Recently, I drafted a letter to the editor that suggested the barrage of mail opposing to the museum's sale of its collection's best holdings was getting nowhere and that we, who vehemently oppose this sale, should collectively write a letter to Sotheby's that its acceptance of the art is morally wrong and what it has received must be immediately returned. It would have been most interesting to see how Sotheby's would have responded. Under the circumstances, I have little or no doubt it would have returned the art.

Fortunately, I was delayed in sending my letter, only to read the story in Sunday's Eagle by Larry Parnass ("Van W. Shields' South Carolina museum quest foundered"), a thoroughly researched and brilliant four-page investigation of Shields' previous post as director and CEO of the Culture and Heritage Museum in Rock Hill, S.C. In the case of the South Carolina museum, Shields' proposal was truly a smoke-and-mirror effort to finance a new museum of "people and place." Perhaps worst of all, he stonewalled any consideration for an archeological investigation of the proposed site, proven to be a major settlement of the Catawba Indians. The approach, though along a different path, was clearly cut from the same cloth as that of the Berkshire Museum's plans.

I hope everyone will read Larry Parnass' article. Hopefully it will no longer be necessary to contact Sotheby's requesting the return of the museum's art, a request that should now come from a very contrite Berkshire Museum board. Consider the otherwise potential demise of the museum!

It quite amazes me that years ago the museum did little to vet Shields' qualifications before hiring him. Does this not tell us of the extraordinary lack of professionalism on the part of the museum's board, both then and now?

Consider the potential, if not certain, demise of the museum were it not for The "new" Berkshire Eagle and especially for the work of Larry Parnass, the investigations editor who clearly has put an extraordinary effort to exposing who, I hope, is shortly to become the former director of the Berkshire Museum, Van W. Shields.

Christopher H.L. Owen,



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