North Adams Holocaust Museum Closing This Month
|The Holocaust museum on Eagle Street will close by April 24. Founder Darrell English is hoping to find another location.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — After three years, the New England Holocaust Institute has a critical decision to make: Move or close completely.
Darrell K. English, who's run the small museum on Eagle Street on a shoestring, said last week that he will have to pack up by the end of the month to make way for the adjacent Friendship Food Pantry, which needs bigger quarters.
"I will try to keep it here as long as I can," he said, but expected to vacate the premises by April 24. "I did the best I could."
Still, English is keeping hope that the museum can find a new home: He is still in talks with Worcester State University to mount some kind of exhibit, possibly permanent, from his massive collection and planned to speak with Adams officials this week on opportunities in the Mother Town.
But he's disappointed that his hometown has never warmed up to the museum, a dream he's had of founding for years.
"The things that I have here could be the heart of the community," English said. "You can't get anything like this outside a metro area."
The World War II collector has a treasure trove of artifacts — and a story to go with every single one of them — ranging from militaria to ephemera to posters to Holocaust memorabilia. He said he's been recognized as holding the fifth largest private collection of such artifacts by the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
The tiny museum, tucked away on Eagle Street, has been visited by school field trips, teacher conferences and a trip arranged by the German consulate, and it's been written about by a bevy of local and regional media. This Friday, for example, the Times of Israel is sending a reporter to interview him.
Its subject matter, however, has always been a bit of a tough fit in a city focused on arts, nature and local history as its path to revival.
"The museum is here because I'm here," said English. But he's had difficulty getting local officials to recognize it could be an attractor for visitors to the city. "I haven't felt welcome."
The collector said his museum is important in keeping alive the memory of one of mankind's greatest horrors. The number of people who experienced the Holocaust as victims or saviors are declining rapidly as time takes its toll. The New England Holocaust Institute and the nearly 300 other museums across the nation are ensuring the incalculable tragedy and the events leading up to it are there to educate generations for whom World War II seems the far distant past.
Switching spaces with the neighboring pantry wouldn't work, English said, because the pantry's current long, narrow configuration isn't suitable for hosting gatherings. Worcester State's history and political science department is interested in the collection, possibly hosting it at a synagogue the university's foundation acquired in 2013, but that's still in the talking stage. English has also heard of some possibilities in Lenox.
"Things are still cooking," he said last week.
Visitors who have made their way to the free walk-in museum have been surprised and appreciative at what they've found, he said, and often linger over artifacts. More than a few have left contributions in the donation jar — including a couple $100 bills — to help defray the cost for the nonprofit. English has received some help in keeping the doors open but his wife, Mary, said he's had to sell off part of his collection to cover the rent and utilities.
"He jumped with both feet," she said of his dedication to his dream
English said he doesn't regret the time and effort he's poured into the museum. He's met a lot of people, made a lot of contacts and feels he's made a real impression.
"I made an impact," he said. "There are people who told me that this is unforgettable."
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