Berkshire Museum Offers Fresh Look at Collection in New Exhibit

Thomas Hill, Yosemite Valley, 1889, oil on canvas. Collection of Berkshire Museum.

Thomas Hill, Yosemite Valley, 1889, oil on canvas. Collection of Berkshire Museum.

(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) ? Berkshire Museum is offering a fresh look at its diverse collection of fine artworks, historical artifacts and natural science specimens in Objectify: A Look into the Permanent Collection, a major new exhibition of some of the most significant and fascinating objects from the museum’s holdings. The exhibition draws from the over 50,000 objects in the museum’s possession, including its Asian art collection, twentieth-century abstract paintings, ancient Greek and Roman jewelry and glass, marble sculptures, its Egyptian mummy, and even the suit of furs worn by Matthew Henson on Admiral Richard Peary’s expedition to the North Pole. An opening reception will be held on Friday, April 5, 2013, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and will be free and open to the public. The exhibition is part of the year-long celebration of the museum’s 110th anniversary.

In the creation of the new exhibition, overlapping ideas of history, exploration, and community were used to design a show that inspires, educates, and engages the viewers. Two artists from the community, designer Peter Garlington and artist Leo Nash, are the guest curators; their ideas have resulted in an innovative exhibition that highlights the museum’s extensive collections in unexpected and surprising ways.

Visitors who have been to Berkshire Museum many times over the years will enjoy seeing favorite objects and artworks in a fresh setting, from Pahat the mummy to William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s luminous painting, The Shepherdess. Some fine examples of paintings from the Hudson River School will be included, as will many of the natural science specimens, from a crocodile skull to delicate shells and colorful minerals.

Crocodile skull (Berkshire Museum)

Crocodile skull (Berkshire Museum)

“The fresh installation of objects from the permanent collection is an opportunity to shine a light on the Berkshire Museum as a unique cultural institution,” says Van Shields, the museum’s executive director. “The museum’s history as a general interest museum and as a ‘wider window to the world’ is evident in the collection, as is the museum’s sense of place and its connection to the people of the Berkshires. Many Berkshire natives have treasured memories of childhood visits, and we hope that the many students who visit each year continue to have meaningful experiences that will always be remembered.”

Taking advantage of the use of several galleries, visitors will transition from experiencing the visual density of the collection as if it were still in storage, to the visual lightness of the collection as viewed in a contemporary setting. Moving through the four galleries will allow the visitor to explore the process of creating an exhibition, from object selection to theme and narrative development to the final installation of a curated show. The underlying theme of a “long view” will be explored, from the historical context of the hopes and goals of the museum’s founder, Zenas Crane, through the different periods of the museum’s history, asking, “What will the next 100 years look like?”

“By pulling back the curtain,” say Garlington and Nash, “this show will be looking at both the historic nature of the collection as well as having and using the collection to create new, interesting, and relevant installations. The exhibition is designed as a template that will allow for regular rotation of objects. Visitors will find the show shifting as objects are revealed during its extended run, with new surprises and changing interactive experiences.”



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