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Wally takes ride by the Berkshire Museum after a complete restoration. The dinosaur is being stored until work is completed at the 118-year-old museum.
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The presentation included views of the museum reconfigured second floor.

Berkshire Museum Making Improvements in 2021

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Piles of dirt speak to the exterior work happening last year at the museum in this image from Tuesday's presentation.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Wally the stegosaurus will be rejoining the Berkshire Museum this spring after some rest and recuperation.
Wally's not the 118-year-old museum's only renovation that Berkshire County residents can look forward to in 2021.
The South Street museum is undergoing nearly $1.6 million in structural improvements and upgrades — both inside and outside — to preserve not only the structure but the treasures it has inside. 
According to the museum, the first round of work, which included the freight lift, sewer line, and waterproofing cost about $2 million, bringing the total cost for the 2020 and 2021 projects to about $3.6 million total.
"There truly has been accomplishments in the most trying of years," Chief Engagement Officer Hilary Dunn Ferrone said on Tuesday during a web presentation that described the work and planning being done for preservation, protecting the collections, and improving the museum in ways that will enhance the experience.
Executive Director Jeff Rodgers hopes that the revamped museum will be ready for the public by August.
The first phase of renovations included essential infrastructure work designed and engineered by Hill Engineering and executed by Allegrone Construction.
The first order of business was to give the museum a new sewer line, as its previous one was a century old and sometimes dysfunctional.  
"If you drove through Pittsfield last summer you saw construction fence, you saw heavy equipment," Rodgers said. "You saw work going on."
While driving by the museum last summer, residents saw piles of dirt on the lawn. This was due to another important infrastructure improvement that Rodgers described as the heart and soul of the first phase.
The entire foundation of the building was exposed so that it could be waterproofed. The museum has an old fieldstone foundation that had been allowing water into the basement for too long and is essential to secure, Rodgers explained, because it houses collection storage and the aquarium.
New drainage systems were installed around the perimeter of the museum to move water away from the foundation. Rodgers hopes that with this system, the waterproofing won't even need to do its job.
Also included in the exterior improvements is the makeover of Wally, who will return to the museum in the spring. Wally has been rehabilitated, refurbished, and received a fresh paint job done by the original artists.
"He's got this beautiful new paint job, which brought him back to his original glory," Rodgers said.
On the side of the building, the museum's freight lift was extended to the second floor so that large objects can be safely moved to the upper level.
This infrastructure work literally and figuratively sets the foundation for other renovations to the museum and solidifies the building for decades to come, Rodgers said.
Work is currently getting started within the walls of the museum to address environmental and climate issues. This will provide safety to the collections and exhibits that need to be kept in a particular climate with the right humidity levels.
Because the masonry building is over a century old, when cold air hits the uninsulated walls it creates condensation on the inside of the museum. Rodgers described this challenge as "weeping walls" and said that water would sometimes drip down from the ceiling and stalagmites of ice would form.
To address this, an insulation barrier was created on all of the exterior walls so that the interior climate is manageable. This was the beginning of work that was done with Bradley Architecture and Berkshire Design and helped the planners begin thinking about what needed to be done on the second floor.
Rodgers estimated that more than 2 million visitors walked the museum's floors over the last 40 years.  Because of the wear and tear, they were not able to be refinished and the second floor received new oak flooring.
The second floor also received a LED lighting system in gallery spaces and a grid of electrical outlets on the floor so that objects requiring power can be positioned anywhere. Previously, the museum had electrical cords extending from the ceiling, which Rodgers said was unsightly and not very safe.
Big layout changes will be made to the second floor that reclaims underused spaces and put them to new uses. There will be two gender-neutral restrooms, a quiet space with a sitting area and water fountain that opens up to windows overlooking South Street, two multifunctional spaces, and two pocket galleries.
"Adding these restrooms on the second floor is huge," Rodgers said. "For those of you who have attended Crane Room events over the years and knowing that when that time came you were marching down either one flight of stairs or two flights of stairs to go find a restroom."
One of the multifunctional spaces will be a lab and the other a studio.
"I hesitate to call these classrooms because these are so much more than that," Rodgers said in regard to the two spaces.
All of the lab and studio furniture can be broken down, moved, and reconfigured for freedom of use. These spaces are intended for all ages, as they can be used for field trips, camps, meetings, and much more.
"What we're really about is creating experiences," Rodgers said. "We are all about learning experiences that are based on ideas that are born from the objects that we have."
The new learning spaces on the second floor will do the duty of the existing classrooms on the first floor, which will be taken over as offices for staff. Over the past two years, Berkshire Museum staff has been offsite and Rodgers said they would ideally like to be under the same roof. (When COVID-19 permits.)
The two pocket gallery spaces are about 400 square feet each and they will serve as a connector to larger gallery spaces. Because these small galleries can be turned over quickly, museumgoers can always expect something new in them.
Rodgers said the plan is to engage local artists, historians, and scientists in these galleries amongst others.
The last component to Berkshire Museum's renovation is the addition of 30 mobile museum units funded by the Feigenbaum Foundation. Described as a breakthrough innovation, these units provide the opportunity to put existing museum objects into a new context by bringing other related objects into the displays to tell different stories.
The mobile museum units can stand alone or together and will have hands-on objects indoors underneath that are aimed at engaging younger audiences.
Rodgers said the future of the museum is all about flexibility, being able to adapt and change.
The "new vision" renovations were first presented in 2017 and funded through a controversial sale of some of the museum's art collection, including two original Norman Rockwells. The sale of 22 pieces, despite several lawsuits and an agreement with the attorney general, raised more than $53 million. Rodgers joined the museum two years ago.
With an eclectic collection of 40,000 objects that range from fine arts to antiquities to local history to natural history specimens, it's the interplay between those disciplines that real magic happens, Rodgers explained.
These units can also be moved to schools, libraries, and community centers while keeping the objects inside safe. This is especially favorable during COVID-19 times.
Rodgers envisions this project to be ready for summer and hopes that the pandemic will be at the point where people will be able to gather again.  He noted that longtime favorites will always be at the museum.
"I hope what you're hearing from me is a lot of excitement about this because it is very exciting," he said. "It's not just about the sewers, it's not just about insulation, it's about the ability to create new experiences for people and that's the future, to continually challenge ourselves to create new ways for people to engage with the Berkshire Museum and want to come back again and again and again."
Correction: the cost for the work to date was incorrect and has been fixed. The new vision presented in 2017 was estimated at about $20 million.

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Berkshires Gets Limited Vaccine Doses; Named 'High-Efficiency Collaborative'

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — COVID-19 vaccine shipments expected early last week were delayed because of inclement weather and were smaller than expected, leaving Berkshire County shorthanded. And a "very limited" amount of vaccines was available for appointment first-dose slots on Wednesday.  
"This week, Massachusetts received 139,000 doses," Mayor Linda Tyer said to the City Council on Tuesday. "That's it, we have a million potential new residents who are eligible, but for the week we received 139,000 doses."
Public Health Program Manager Laura Kittross said there is limited access everywhere and doesn't expect this to be an ongoing issue.  She hopes to see additional vaccine allocations later this week and is "certainly hopeful for next week."
On Thursday, there were very limited first-dose clinic at Berkshire Community College from 2 to 5 with 300 appointments available to eligible individuals. The North Adams and Great Barrington vaccination sites will also hold first-dose clinics on Thursday, offering 250 doses each. All of those were gone by late afternoon on Wednesday.
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