Creating a New Vision to Serve the Community
For more than a century, the Berkshire Museum has been an important part of this community. Founder Zenas Crane wanted to provide a “window on the world” to the people of the Berkshires, and the Museum has stayed true to Crane’s vision of service ever since.
Today, as government support shrinks for education and the arts, the Museum is more important than ever, providing more than 29,000 lessons and experiences for Berkshire schoolchildren in the last year, serving as an important cultural center for adults, and offering an attraction for tourists, which contributes to our local economy.
Tough economic conditions in the region have taken a toll on the Museum. For the past decade, the Museum has operated with an average deficit of more than $1 million annually; its operating deficit since 2007 exceeds $11.8 million and it recorded an operating loss of more than $1.4 million in FY2016.
To meet this challenge, the Museum’s Board of Trustees and executive director engaged in an exhaustive, nearly two-year planning process, working to identify potential paths toward a sustainable future, starting by asking the community what they wanted and needed from the Museum.
The New Vision that emerged from this extensive outreach and consultation with our community will create an innovative 21st-century institution, with the financial stability to sustain and strengthen the Museum into the future. The difficult decision to sell just a few of the museum’s thousands of works of art is necessary to help fund physical renovations and create a new endowment essential to establish this financial stability. Implementing the New Vision will mean that the Museum will be here, providing that “window on the world” for another hundred years, serving the people, and especially the children and families of this community, long into the future.
The extensive planning process and community consultation showed the community was strongly interested in building on the Museum’s focus on science and history. The mission of the Museum stays the same, and fine art remains an important part. The new vision means new programs and exhibitions will integrate the arts, science, and history into learning experiences that will teach skills that foster success in the 21st century: critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to collaborate. In the New Vision, the Museum will be better able to provide critical educational resources no longer guaranteed by our schools, such as in science and technology, as well as participating in innovative educational partnerships with area schools and organizations.
A Transformed Museum
The Museum will focus on interdisciplinary interpretation, exploring the connections among science, history, and the arts, inspiring curiosity and helping audiences of all ages better understand themselves and the world around them. Objects from the collection will be displayed in innovative new ways that will allow visitors to see more of the collection than ever before.
Wally the stegosaurus will continue to welcome visitors on the front lawn, while the historic building will be updated inside. Visitors will explore a significantly expanded aquarium, highlighting the streams and ponds of New England as well as exotic environments from around the globe. A planetarium, new event and exhibition spaces, and an improved classroom with a wet lab are just some of the amenities planned as part of the New Vision.
This New Vision will mean that the Museum will be here, providing that “window on the world” for another hundred years, serving the children and families of this community.