A letter to our community from the Berkshire Museum

This museum is dedicated to “the study of art, natural science, and the cultural history of humankind.” As an educational institution, we cannot turn a blind eye to uncomfortable facts.

We recognize that racism is an undeniable part of our history. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have made it painfully clear that racism is not an historical chapter that has been closed, but an ongoing affront to morality, equality, and justice. Around the world, protests continue to call for an end to systemic racism, and the universal awareness they have brought forward cannot be ignored.

We recognize that museums, including the Berkshire Museum, have played a role in institutionalizing racism. With histories rooted in colonialism, museums have often sought to uphold western civilization while ignoring, marginalizing, or worse, demonizing other races and cultures.

With these recognitions comes an obligation for us to act.

We are committed to the truth that Black Lives Matter. We will work to end systemic racism and support efforts to affect positive change in our society.

We are committed to being an ally to all who have experienced systemic racism and are working to end it. We will partner with the NAACP and with others engaged in the fight against racism to develop new programming that amplifies the voices, works, and experiences of minority populations and opens new dialogues about race, racism, and its effects on our communities here and around the world.

We are committed to an honest reckoning of the provenance of our collections. We will make every effort to address any wrongs and share the process so that we, our community, and the museum field at large may learn and grow.

We are committed to building a culture, both internally and with the public, that promotes understanding, growth, and progress toward a future in which racism is eradicated. We will work to embed social justice and equity into our policies, practices, organizational culture, and operations.

We are committed to making our museum accessible to everyone in our community. The Berkshire Museum will be a safe place where people of all backgrounds will feel welcomed and included.

To these ends, our staff has begun to examine and re-shape our core values. We have engaged in training to recognize unconscious biases and will further our education with a nationally recognized facilitator this September. Together with our peers in Berkshire County, we will examine the role of cultural institutions in combating racism.

The Berkshire Museum staff continues to analyze our collections so that we may right the wrongs of our past, as we did in 2018 when we partnered with the Big Drum Society and White Earth Tribal Council to return an Ojibwe Large Drum to the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

With the encouragement of Dennis Powell, President of the NAACP- Berkshire Branch, we are working to present a virtual version of Their Stories: Oral Histories from the NAACP. an exhibition created in 2019 in partnership with the NAACP – Berkshire Branch and the Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at Berkshire Community College. We hope the exhibition, which features contemporary stories recorded by leaders from the local African-American community and the NAACP Berkshire chapter alongside portraits by photographer Julie McCarthy, will spark conversation and forge new connections that lead to positive change in our community and begin a new chapter in Berkshire Museum programming.

We know that this is not enough to end systemic racism in America, but we must use our platform and resources to do what we can. We are committed to being a better museum; a museum dedicated to working with you to make our community and our world a better place.

 

Jeff Rodgers, Executive Director

Ethan Klepetar, Trustee President