Letter: Transparency the way to museum success

To the editor:

It is difficult not to feel a large amount of righteous indignation when realizing the extent to which the Berkshire Museum has and had kept its future plans under wraps. Ruth Bass's excellent column (Eagle, August 28) makes it quite clear that the museum has been less than forthcoming. As she mentioned, other local organizations have called for much needed financial aid and received it. Today, most of them are thriving.

The Berkshire Museum has remained stubbornly secretive. I suspect that it is not only in need of monetary support but also of some new and creative thinking. We are blessed in Berkshire County to have that kind of talent all around us. Why has it not been tapped into? The museum may have the "right" to make all of the decisions but is it ethical for it to do so? To sell Calder's gifts and Rockwell's and a magnificent Bierstadt? Several museums have weighed in on this and they say, "No!"

Furthermore science and art are not exclusive. So why just consider making the museum a place for science alone when it has historically included both? Consider the different chemistries in paints throughout the centuries, the complicated methods of much printmaking or the marvelous depiction of accurate anatomy reproduced in a fine sculpture. I have had the pleasure of being a docent at the Clark Art Institute for many years.

I continue to delight in the spark I see in a student's eye when he or she discovers something of the above for the first time. It's an exercise in learning to look, observe and articulate an observation. Why has the Berkshire Museum discontinued its docent program?

New ideas in a museum are necessary and should be ongoing. But must the new exclude the old? Should the selling of the best of its art be exchanged for a new entryway or the reconfiguration of the historic Crane room? Or to buy a hammer or a nail? If the museum continues along this path of exclusivity its success will be limited no matter how much larger its endowment may be.

Postpone the sale of the art and reach out to the community before you have completely alienated them. "Transparency" and engagement will be a much surer path to success.

Adele Rodbell,



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