|Location||Pittsfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States|
|Collections||Natural history, art, ancient Egyptian mummy, Babylonian art|
The Berkshire Museum, founded by local paper magnate Zenas Crane, opened in 1903. The building was designed by the local architect Henry Seaver. When Ellen Crane, his wife, died in 1934, she left a bequest of $100,000 to the museum.
Norman Rockwell, Shuffleton's Barbershop, 1950
Thomas Dewing, The White Dress, 1901
Robert Reid, The Trio, 1898
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Horseback Ride, 1884
Albert Bierstadt, Giant Redwood Trees of California, 1874
The Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation opened in March 2008. This new hall falls in line with the museum's traditional "curiosity cabinet" appeal and is dedicated to local innovators.
In October 2014, Berkshire Museum's "Dino Dig" paleontology exhibition was replaced by Spark!Lab, a hands-on, inventors laboratory space developed by the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History.
In July 2017, the Board of Directors at the Berkshire Museum, facing a $10 million expense to renovate the museum and a significant reduction in their endowment, announced a plan to sell a portion of their art collection including two Norman Rockwell paintings, Blacksmith's Boy - Heel and Toe (1940), also known as Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop, and Shuffleton's Barbershop (1950). They contracted with Sotheby's to auction a total of 40 pieces from their collection. The estimated proceeds from the sale would be $50 million. The proposed sale of art to solve the institution's financial problems created considerable controversy not only among the residents of Berkshire County, but within the larger art world. The Massachusetts Attorney General's brief of October 30, 2017, supported opposition to the sale and joined the plaintiffs in court.
On November 1, 2017, before a packed courthouse, Judge John A. Agostini heard arguments on both sides of the controversy centered on the right of the plaintiffs to sue. His ruling was published on November 7, 2017, denying the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissing the non-governmental plaintiffs for lack of standing. Nevertheless, the Massachusetts Appeals Court granted a temporary injunction to halt the sale that expired on December 11, 2017. The sale was opposed by members of the museum as well as the descendants of Rockwell (who donated work to the museum allegedly with the understanding that it would always remain at the museum). Museum organizations condemned the plan to sell the items, with the state's lawyers asserting that the museum intended to sell nearly all of its valuable art to subsidize operating and other expenses.
After months of negotiating at the Appellate Court level, a tentative settlement was reached on February 9, 2018, between the plaintiffs and the Attorney General's office. As of March 2018, that settlement was in the hands of Justice David A. Lowy of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, following a hearing involving lawyers from the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, the museum, and two separate groups of plaintiffs opposing the settlement. On April 5, 2018, the judge ruled that the auction can proceed. Details of the Court's judgment (SJ-2018-0065) can be viewed online.
On April 11, 2018, it was announced that the Berkshire Museum had sold Shuffleton's Barbershop by Rockwell to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art for an undisclosed amount. The painting is to be loaned to the Norman Rockwell Museum in nearby Stockbridge for display into 2020. Other works, including Blacksmith's Boy - Heel and Toe, are scheduled for sale at a Sotheby's auction in May 2018.