You can discover a world of wonders when you stray from the typical path. At the Berkshire Museum, located in the heart of Pittsfield, most visitors walk around the first floor and then head up the stairs to view the main galleries. However, those who decide to descend the stairs are lucky enough to venture into an entirely new realm. Below the lobby level, guests find themselves swimming between the dark, deep blue walls of the Aquarium with the opportunity to encounter many species of fish, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and more.
“It’s unusual for a museum to have an aquarium,” says Scott Jervas, Berkshire Museum’s Aquarium Manager. “People love our aquarium and it is definitely one of our strengths as an institution.” John Brancazzu, the Museum’s Aquarium Assistant, agrees that seeing the live animals is a major draw for visitors.
The creatures on display in the Museum’s tanks include clownfish, blind cave fish, seahorses, a panther chameleon, boa constrictors, a python, leopard geckos, and an emperor scorpion, just to name a few. The newest addition to the aquarium is an assortment of brightly colored poison dart frogs, the largest dart frog exhibit Jervas says he has seen.
There are about 36 tanks on display within the small space that makes up the Aquarium. However, this number doesn’t include the more than 10 additional tanks in the back reserved for creatures that are either in quarantine, tadpoles, or the smaller insects that become another’s food. Although the space might be tiny, Jervas makes room for a wide variety of creatures to live within the tanks. The small space allows the numerous jobs required to maintain the Aquarium more manageable, Brancazzu says.
Endangered Species Rejuvenation
The Museum’s Aquarium is actively involved in the Plymouth Red-Bellied Turtle Head Start Program, a particular species of turtle native to the towns of Plymouth and Carver in Massachusetts, Brancazzu explains. The program promotes protection of the endangered species’ hatchlings.
“It’s a big responsibility,” he stresses. Each year, the Museum is given 10 red-bellied turtles to raise and care for during the winter months. Brancazzu says they raise the turtles to get really big and once they are ready, release them into the wild during the month of May. He estimates the population of the Plymouth red-bellied turtles to have increased from about 300 to over 2,000 due to this program.
A Look Towards the Future
Just like the rest of Berkshire Museum, the Aquarium is actively looking into new ways to integrate technology. Next to certain tanks, QR codes have been added for those seeking to further their knowledge. A QR code next to the eastern gray tree frogs’ links to a sound clip of the male’s calling, a sound most people mistake to be an insect, Jervas clarifies.
Berkshire Museum’s Aquarium continues to be a major attraction for visitors to the Museum, both young and old, since its beginning in 1986. Children are actively involved with weekly popular educational programs like Aquarium Adventures and Chow Time in the Aquarium. The Aquarium staff will continue its growth by introducing new creatures to the tanks, and with possible plans to improve the Touch Tank area.
- Megan Cooney, Berkshire Museum Intern, 2013