Above, a monarch butterfly investigates a lilac bush. Monarchs will be highlighted in a new Berkshire Museum exhibit opening May 31. Left,, one of the world culture, butterfly-decorated objects in the exhibit.
Photos courtesy Berkshire Museum
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is considered one of the best children's books of all time.
In it, Eric Carle's green baby caterpillar hatches from an egg and proceeds to eat so much that he get sick, then spins a cocoon in which he remains for the two weeks before emerging as a bright, colorful butterfly.
The Berkshire Museum is banking on a metamorphosis of its own, capitalizing on everyone's love of butterflies, in its new exhibit, simply titled "Butterflies."
As part of the exhibit, which opens Saturday, May 31, the museum is housing in one of its galleries a live butterfly pavilion through which visitors can walk and intimately experience a variety of vivid butterflies, representing species from around the world as well as those found in New England meadows.
"Personally I can't wait," Berkshire Museum Executive Director Van Shields said while touring the progress of the exhibit a week before its opening. "What's not to like about butterflies? It's fun to do something so extraordinarily different."
The museum houses its own aquarium and has presented live exhibits before, including frogs and geckos. This is indeed different because those exhibits were traveling exhibits making a Berkshire stop, while "Butterflies" was completely curated by Maria Mingalone, the museum’s director of interpretation. This exhibit, Shields said, will prove that the museum is skilled at its mission of bringing art, history and natural history together.
"The shows we do ourselves can be just as popular as the shows we rent from the outside," he said.
While the butterfly pavilion is bound to be the most popular part of the exhibit, what surrounds it fulfills that mission. In the first of four galleries, the life cycle of the butterfly will be demonstrated through a live chrysalis and an interactive area where kids can mimic caterpillars in caterpillar wiggle bags and manipulate morphing a caterpillar into a butterfly with plush toys. That gallery also will feature a piece of art created by Paul Villinski, a New York City artist. Villinski's piece is called "Arcus" and is constructed of recycled beer cans meticulously cut into butterfly shapes.
The second gallery includes the pavilion, an enclosed structure that will be "green and lush and humid," according to Lesley Ann Beck, the museum's director of communications. Beck said the museum has worked closely with Project Native in Great Barrington, which has a butterfly pavilion of its own, and Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in South Deerfield. A trip through the pavilion will cost visitors $2 on top of admission charges but will give visitors a completely interactive experience with the butterflies.
"They will be flying about," Beck said. "It should be very wonderful."
Visitors will face a mirror on the way out of the exhibit to make sure no stowaways have hitched a ride on their clothing. Upon exiting they will be directed to the rest of that gallery as well as the other two galleries in the exhibit, all of which feature both new art as well as pieces culled from the museum's extensive collection, including items such as glassware and other world culture items.
There also will be a section that tells the story of the iconic monarch butterfly, and the last gallery will teach visitors about the structure of the butterfly, all in an effort to boost the educational component of the exhibit.
"We have had such great success in the past with 'Frogs' and 'Geckos' and we know the community really appreciates learning about nature and critters," Beck said.
While the exhibit officially opens Saturday (and remains up through Sept. 1), a preview party will be held Friday, May 30, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Admission to the preview party is $5; reservations are requested at 413-443-7171, Ext. 37.
"We really want people to come," Beck said. "I think all ages are going to enjoy this."