Letter: Nuts-and-bolts details missing from plan

To the editor:

With regard to recent letters supporting the Berkshire Museum's intended conversion into a technology/science museum, here are my thoughts.

Isabelle Kaplan, on Sept. 20, argues that it's only experts and wealthy people outside Pittsfield who are concerned about the museum. "Common people," she writes, worry about jobs and education for their children. My view is that the museum is actually a centerpiece of education for children and for the community. It is the only cultural institution in Pittsfield that offers this kind of education, and it serves the entire county as well as visitors. The museum used to employ a curator and volunteer docents to carry out its educational mission. Van Shields, who touts the museum's educational purpose, eliminated these educators from the museum's staff.

Financial adviser Gary Schiff, in a letter to The Eagle on Sept. 21, deems it unfair of The Eagle to look at the museum director's record of taking on grand projects comparable to the one proposed for the museum, but it is exactly a leader's track record that, as Mr. Schiff must know, one looks at in sizing up his/her ability to carry out proposed work. The Massachusetts Cultural Council states that, at an August meeting with museum director Shields, Shields was unable to provide a budget for his proposed reconfiguration of the museum. Do Ms. Kaplan's "common people" or the people Mr. Schiff advises proceed with projects without a budget?

Comparisons to the innovative Mass MoCA don't apply, as MoCA displays new art in formerly empty factory buildings repurposed as a museum. The Berkshire Museum is an already beautiful building housing art spanning thousands of years (if you include the mummy) that is not otherwise available to Berkshire County.     

Rich Woller, in a Sept. 20 letter, suggests that private sales of Renoir's paintings to Sterling and Francine Clark were a good thing, but he neglects to mention that, although private, the Clark Art Institute is open to the public. We have no assurance that whoever buys from Sotheby's the 40 pieces from the Berkshire Museum's collection will display them where the public can see them as the Clark Museum does.

Innovation is an attractive idea. The Feigenbaum wing of the museum (in which I have never seen any child visitors) is supposed to be dedicated to innovation. But you have to look at the nuts and bolts of an innovative idea to see if it will work. The public has not seen the nuts and bolts of Van Shields' idea, nor have the trustees or the focus groups who consulted to the museum.

Before you dismantle the old, you must know exactly what you are going to replace it with. I have not seen a description of the replacement of the Berkshire Museum that has specificity or logic.

Roberta Russell,



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