With new trustees, Berkshire Museum looks to improve, expand

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PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Museum wants to improve how it educates students, best exhibits it collection and creates collaborations with other cultural institutions in the area.

Those museum functions are among the many the staff and board of trustees will review and seek to enhance in the coming months as the South Street landmark looks to bolster its impact on the community.

"We are embarking on a strategic master planning process to determine how best to fulfill our mission and serve the Berkshire community," said board President Bill Hines. "Together with their fellow board members, our new trustees will be participating in a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the course of our future."

Hines, in remarks delivered during the board's annual meeting Monday night, was referring to Douglas Crane, Barbara Krauthamer and Melissa Scarafoni, newly elected trustees to serve two-year terms.

In addition, Hines, Vice President Elizabeth McGraw, Secretary Lydia S. Rosner and Treasurer Carol Riordan, were re-elected as board officers. Stacey Gillis Weber and Ursula Ehret-Dichter also will serve as first-time vice presidents.

The board is among the 100 volunteers the museum relies on to run the 112-year-old institution, which currently has some 2,000 individual and household memberships.

At a reception following the meeting, Craig Langlois, the museum's director of education and public programming, highlighted how the museum has reached out to more students and teachers in the community.

Since 2011, the museum has increased from sponsoring three outreach programs in two schools to 10 programs in nine schools as of June 30, Langlois said. Within the past two years, overall student experiences involving the museum has jumped 12 percent to 17,596.

Langlois looks to build upon that success through the strategic planning process.

"We can adapt to the need in the community and I think we can make our programming stronger," he said.

The museum also has been working with Right Reason Technologies to provide students with basic information about a particular topic they are studying that usually involves a trip to the museum.

As for exhibits, museum officials want to make the best use of their resources and keep the displays fresh and interesting.

For the past two years, the museum has provided iPads to assist groups touring museum exhibits, according to Executive Director Van Shields.

"They help the interaction [and] enhance the observation of real things," he said.

Currently, a pair of photo exhibits look to attract new and returning visitors.

"Powered Narratives: Photographer John Stanmeyer," is on view through Nov. 8. Based in South Berkshire, the award-winning Stanmeyer has photographed for National Geographic and Time magazines.

"American West," runs through Jan. 3 and features compelling and intriguing portrayals of the Western United States from the past 125 years.

The museum also hopes to continue increasing its collaborations. In recent years, the museum forged partnerships with area attractions such as with Hancock Shaker Village; viewing other cultural venues as collaborators, not necessarily competitors, Shields said.

Financially, Shields says the museum is operating with a $2.4 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, roughly the same spending plan as fiscal 2015.

"We're in a good financial position, but we're always looking to increase our endowment," he said. "We've had good growth in contributions, but earned income (ticket sales, etc.) has remained the same — still up from four years ago."

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.

New trustees ...

The Berkshire Museum board of trustees elected three new members during its annual meeting Tuesday:

Douglas Crane: Prior to launching the New Dalton Group for development consulting, Crane worked for paper manufacturer Crane for three decades, retiring as vice president, U.S. currency products, in 2013. He has served on the museum's advisory council and worked on several museum projects, including its collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History Places of Invention project that features Crane's legacy of innovation in papermaking in the Berkshires.

Barbara Krauthamer: As an associate professor of history and associate dean of the graduate school at the UMass-Amherst, Krauthamer specializes in African-American history, Native American history, slavery and emancipation, and antebellum U.S. history. She also is an acclaimed public historian and presented a lecture series at the museum based on "Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery," that she co-authored. Krauthamer has served on the advisory council and museum's Berkshire Award Committee.

Melissa Scarafoni: Scarafoni specializes in connecting information technology in the insurance industry to clients of the Scarafoni Financial Group. Prior to joining the agency, she held various marketing positions over nine years at General Electric. Scarafoni and her husband, Matt, are co-chairing the museum's summer gala in 2016.


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