Berkshire Collects showcases Berkshire County residents’ passionate pursuit of every imaginable kind of object from rare motorcycles to wind-up toys, exotic insects, vintage guitars, antique toasters, Pez dispensers, and a host of other artifacts and memorabilia. With more than 40 collectors sharing their treasures, the exhibit is a salute to the long and diverse tradition of collecting that built the Berkshire Museum 110 years ago.
The human drive to organize, collect, and acquire is strong. These collections are fascinating for a number of reasons – some are rare, some are historic, some are works of craftsmanship, some are astonishing specimens from nature, some display ingenuity and inventiveness – and all are of surpassing interest to their collectors. Visitors to Berkshire Collects will not only see fabulous objects, but gain insight into the obsessions of the collectors in their own words. From a visual standpoint, many of the objects are spectacular in themselves, like the Britten motorcycle or the vintage guitars. Others make a visual impact by virtue of numbers: even mundane items, such as oil cans or glass insulators, can be stunning when displayed in large groups.
The sheer diversity of objects, and the human interest in the stories of the collectors and their “obsessions,” will be a significant part of the visitor experience. Objects from popular culture include Pez dispensers, Star Wars toys, Green Hornet collectibles, and a more current craze, Dunnys and Munnys. Unfamiliar items include a large number of tools called peg breakers, used by cobblers when shoes were made by hand. Another unusual collection is of brass shell casings from World War I, engraved and embellished by the soldiers on duty in the battlefield trenches.
Berkshire Collects is curated by independent museum professional Linda Norris, working closely with Berkshire Museum’s director of interpretation Maria Mingalone and collections manager and registrar Leanne Hayden. An advisory committee of community members participated in the identification of collections and collectors. Berkshire Collects is proudly sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union.
Have your own collection appear in our gallery and here on our site by using the hashtag #berkshirecollects on Instagram!