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Virtual visits

Berkshire museums may be closed, but you can still experience their collections and connect with artists

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Do the walls feel like they are closing in on you? Wish you could spend an afternoon wandering the galleries of your favorite museum or see a show? You're not alone.

Around the world, cultural institutions — museums, theaters, symphonies, botanical gardens, aquariums, zoos and more — have closed their doors, but instead of shutting down, they've found creative ways to virtually invite the public into their spaces. And it's no different in the Berkshires.

Here, cultural institutions are opening up online portals in a variety of ways, from curated collections and exhibits that can be accessed on their websites, to videos, photos and book recommendations shared on social media. To help you stay connected with your favorite cultural institutions, we reached out to a few of them to find out what they're doing.

Norman Rockwell Museum

Visit the "Virtual Rockwell Museum" from anywhere, at any time at nrm.org/virtualmuseum. The museum has created multiple ways for visitors to experience its collections with related history, photography, video and audio.

"Illustration art is historically one of the most accessible public mediums because it was shared so broadly via mail, newspaper and magazines, and was enjoyed by millions in their own homes. The Norman Rockwell Museum carries on the tradition of serving the public in personal spaces through the Virtual Museum," said Laurie Norton Moffatt, director and CEO. "We're thinking about the community, who in stressful times, should have access to an artful place of respite. We plan to remain a source of comfort and inspiration in new ways."

Links to the various curated experiences, as well as suggestions for what device will deliver the best experience are included at nrm.org/virtualmuseum/.

"The Virtual Norman Rockwell Museum currently includes extensive content including a robust online collection resource; gallery tours via web and Norman Rockwell Museum Mobile App (on Apple and Android), programs, a full library of curriculum connections for K-12; and nearly a thousand hours of videos offering actual footage of Norman Rockwell, a 360-degree tour of Rockwell's studio, talks with Rockwell models, illustrators and more; as examples," said Rich Bradway, the museum's director of digital engagement.

Features like Project Norman: Digitized Collection allow visitors to explore the museum's growing permanent collection of original historic and contemporary illustration, featuring more than 20,000 works by more than 250 artists. A partnership with Google Arts and Culture:Virtual Exhibitions allows individuals and groups to view three unique online exhibitions as, spanning Norman Rockwell's work during the civil rights to presidential politics, as well as a special exhibit on Thomas Nast - an illustrator that influenced presidential elections for the last third of the 19th century. Also available, is a comprehensive collection of Norman Rockwell's art predating 1924.

The museum plans to grow these online exhibitions in the coming weeks, Alyssa Stuble, the museum's communications manager said in an email.

On the museum's YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/NormanRockwellMuseum, there are nearly a thousand hours of video content, including current and past exhibitions, interviews with Rockwell, his models and other artists, drawing demos and master classes.

The virtual museum also has interactive timelines and a curriculum lab with lessons and ideas that are adaptable for elementary and secondary grade levels, aligned to the Common Core Education Standards. Adaptable for professional educators or families looking for educational activities at home.

"Plans are already in the works to create and curate new content delivered weekly that mimics the [Rockwell] Museum experience, including video tours, art demonstrations participants can take part in at home, and presenting new resources from our archives, and 200,000-plus piece illustration collection," Bradway said. "On the education front, chief educator Mary Berle is actively working with Brainworks colleagues and Pittsfield Public schools second grader teacher Pat Winkle to test a virtual class/program, to soon be made available to a broader group of educators."

STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE

Disappointed you can't view,"Lines from Life: French Drawings from the Diamond Collection," a show of drawings from French masters was slated to open at The Clark this weekend? While you won't be able to view it in person until The Clark reopens, there are other options available online.

"Our entire permanent collection is available online at clarkart.edu. Anyone is free to browse the collection and they can download any of the works at no cost and with no restrictions," Victoria T. Saltzman, director of communications, said in an email.

The website, she said, features a section for past exhibitions that provides a special microsite for all the museum's exhibitions dating back to the mid-1990s. Those microsites, which feature specialized looks at artists, genres and various art historical topics related to the exhibits, are available at clarkart.edu/museum/exhibitions#/.

"In fact, we just launched a new microsite for 'Lines from Life,'" Saltzman said. "Although you cannot view the show in our galleries right now, you will be able to pay a virtual visit through clarkart.edu until you can come to The Clark to see these remarkable works in person."

In addition, she said, The Clark's mobile app, available for both iPhone and Android phones, has a variety of available content. Social media — Instagram, Facebook and Twitter — is being updated daily. Most recently, the museum has been sharing images from its collection.

"We are working to provide interesting and inspiring content right now and hope to begin to be able to produce short Facebook Live events featuring our curators within the next few weeks," Saltzman said. "And stay tuned for some surprising new features on our social media platforms!"

Boston Symphony Orchestra

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has canceled performances and events at Symphony Hall in Boston and at the Linde Center at Tanglewood in Lenox through Saturday, May 2, but that doesn't mean you have to go without hearing the BSO perform until then.

Beginning Monday, March 23, you'll have a variety of ways to connect with the BSO online through several prerecorded audio and video options:

- BSO Encores: Nightly@8: Over the next four weeks, at 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, WCRB 99.5 FM will present two-hour "BSO Encores: Nightly@8," spotlighting favorite Boston Symphony Orchestra live-recorded broadcasts from the past five seasons, including performances under the direction of BSO music director Andris Nelsons. You can stream the concerts from the station's website, classicalwcrb.org/ways-listen#stream/2. A schedule of the concerts can be found online at classicalwcrb.org/post/bso-encores-nightly-8-0.

- BSO at Home: Listening — Over the next six weeks, the BSO will release curated audio offerings at 10 a.m., Monday through Friday, at bso.org/athome. Offerings will include performances spotlighting the BSO legendary music directors (March 23-29), memorable musical moments with guest soloist (March 30-April 5), masterworks of the classical period (April 6-12), performances highlighting the French tradition and the BSO (April 20-26) and a focus on the BSO and the Romantic Age (April 27-May 3).

- BSO at Home: Behind the Scenes — Video from previously released BSO productions, including "BSO360" and "Tanglewood Tales," that take viewers on a behind the scenes adventure of the BSO's activities in Boston and at Tanglewood, available through the BSO's YouTube channel at youtube.com/bostonsymphony or through bso.org/athome

- BSO Home School — Video tutorials with BSO musicians will be released on a weekly basis. Lesson plans and accompanying playlists from past BSO Youth and Family concerts will be available as well as videos featuring BSO musician instrument demonstrations, audition preparation and orchestra excerpt coaching and a Symphony Hall tour. More information, starting Monday, can be found at bso.org/brands/bso/at-home/bso-at-home-homeschool.aspx.

"... Though there is nothing to compare to the live concert experience, these musical gifts can also be food for our souls during these difficult times," Nelsons said in a statement. "When I find myself missing my BSO family, including our amazing audience, I look toward the summer and the incredible beauty that awaits us when the Boston Symphony Orchestra and many wonderful guest artists bring us their extraordinary music-making, inspired further by the magnificent atmosphere of Tanglewood surrounded by the beautiful Berkshire hills ... All of us at the BSO will continue to keep everyone in our hearts and prayers until we are back together experiencing the joy and inspiration that only our many musical offerings can bring."

BERKSHIRE MUSEUM

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In an effort to stay connected, the Berkshire Museum's staff has launched "Berkshire Museum at Home," a collection of unique programs, educational activities and a digital tour of the museum's collections. Slated to run through March 29, the museum said in an email newsletter that "new content will be uploaded daily to educate and spark curiosity while we wait out COVID-19."

Found online at berkshiremuseum.org/athome and on the museum's Facebook page and YouTube channel, the daily content includes two video series, "Daily Discovery," targeted at young learners, and "Daily Doodle with Liz and Pete," features a "word of the day."

BERKSHIRE BOTANICAL GARDEN

The Berkshire Botanical Garden's annual bulb show, featuring New England favorites and a collection of blooming South African bulbs rarely seen in the northeast, was canceled just days after it opened.

But that doesn't mean you won't get to see the show. Berkshire Botanical has created a Google photo album of the bulb show, which will be updated through the end of the month, at bit.ly/2U4BlNW.

"Berkshire Botanical Garden plans to continue engaging the community through our weekly e-news and regular social media posts, offering updates on our status as well and providing gardening quips, advice, humor and beautiful photos," Robin Parow, director of marketing communications, said in an email.

Keep up-to-date with Berkshire Botanical on Facebook and Instagram.

MASSACHUSETTS MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART

Mass MoCA, which recently extended its closure through May 1, is keeping in touch with the community via its social media channels.

"Mass MoCA is bringing its art to the public with Morning, Afternoon, and Evening 'Art Breaks' — both visual and performing arts, that cover our (almost) 21 years," Jodi Joseph, director of communications, said in an email.

On Facebook, recent "art break" posts have included images of Alex Da Corte's "Free Roses," Nick Cave's "Until," and a video of William Kentridge's artist talk from May 2018.

THE MOUNT

Although The Mount's grounds are open for visitors to explore, free-of-charge, during the months of March and April, Edith Wharton's estate — the house and buildings — is closed for the winter. (Any special events scheduled in March and April have been canceled.)

"We're still hoping to open on May 9," said Rebecka McDougall, communications and community outreach director, during a phone interview. "We're keeping on an eye on the situation."

But, she said, The Mount's staff will be keeping in touch with the community through its social media channels until then.

"We'll be making a series of reading recommendations of Edith Wharton's books and of [books] from our past and future presenters," she said.

HANCOCK SHAKER VILLAGE

Still closed for the winter, Hancock Shaker Village is paying close attention to the COVID-19 situation as it prepares for Baby Animals, which is currently scheduled to open April 11. (Check hancockshakervillage.org for updates.)

In the meantime, Hancock Shaker is updating the public, in regards to its new arrivals, on Facebook and Instagram.

"We [recently] posted a video of a pregnant goat on our Facebook page, and [the day before] we ran photos of our first new arrival, a calf named Star," Amanda Powers, director of communications, said in an email. "We'll be posting regular updates on the farm animals, highlighting births as they come."

She added, "We'll also be running segments on interesting stories and historical anecdotes from our archives, given that it's our 60th anniversary this year."

NAUMKEAG/TRUSTEES OF THE RESERVATIONS

Naumkeag, the Choate family home in Stockbridge, is currently closed for the season, but staff members are preparing to take horticulture instruction and garden tours during its popular Daffodil and Tulip Festival online, according to Carol Bosco Baumann, Naumkeag's engagement manager.

"We are constantly monitoring the situation and still hoping to have limited programming in the spring," she said in an email.

Dates for the online programming will be announced in the future. The Daffodil and Tulip Festival is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday to Sunday, April 23 through May 19. Naumkeag opens for its regular season on May 22.

Naumkeag is not the only Trustees of the Reservations property bringing its programming online, according to Christine Boynton, manager of Coastal Communications for The Trustees.

"Over the coming days and weeks, our engagement staff is designing and releasing activities for individuals and families to do in their own home, backyard, or nearby open, outdoor space. We will be sharing these on our website and social media platforms," Boynton said in an email.

The Fruitlands Museum, in Harvard, recently hosted "Fruitlands Sunset," a live stream on Facebook. And, at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays, through April 7, Weir River Farms in Hingham is hosting a weekly "Virtual Backyard Tour and Story Time" on its Facebook page.

There's also the Tours Trustees mobile app, which provides virtual tours of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate, a seaside estate in Ipswich, and The Old Manse in Concord. The app works offline, so you're free to explore even if you're not connected to the internet.


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