Photo Gallery: North Adams Museum of History and Science
NORTH ADAMS -- Planned changes for Western Gateway Heritage State Park could make a local museum part of the city's history.
The North Adams Museum of History and Science -- one of three nonprofits left out of recently released plans to redevelop Heritage State Park into a mixed-use artisan center called Greylock Market -- could be shuttered permanently by the changes. Northern Berkshire Community Television Corporation (NBCTC) and Mill City Productions also were not included in the plans released by developer Greylock Market LLC.
North Adams Historical Society President Charles Cahoon brought up the possibility of closing the 8,000-square-foot museum during a meeting of the historical society's board of directors last week.
"If this outfit leases the park and asks us to move, this board will have to collectively decide what we are going to do. We can go about and secure a new home or store the stuff and go out of business as a museum," Cahoon said last Tuesday. "I'm not expecting any decisions to be made tonight. I'm just putting it out there."
Board member Edward Morandi said he felt any discussion about the museum's future could be held after an official request to vacate Building 5A, the museum's home since 2001, is received.
"As far as I'm concerned, nothing is definite; nothing is in stone," he said. "There's been a lot of scuttlebutt, but we haven't been asked to move. I can't see us moving out of there period. When we put it together, it was a three-month project. To break everything down and get it back together is going to be impossible. It's like Humpty Dumpty -- once the egg is broken, you're not going to get it back together."
Although a contract between the North Adams Redevelopment Authority and Greylock Market LLC has yet to be signed and approved, Cahoon said he believes the society, which owns the museum, needs to begin planning for the future regardless of whether it's asked to relocate.
"I think we need to begin a sort of ‘triage,' which will help us with our mission anyway," he said, referring to a need to pare down the society's collection. "There are some things in our collection that are irreplaceable. There are some things that are on loan to us. Then there are some things we don't need to keep. We need to look at our collection with a critical eye. We can downsize the stuff we have. It will help us out either way.
Secretary Justyna Carlson, who also serves as chairwoman of the North Adams Historical Commission, said plans had yet to be shared with the board, but that a meeting with Blair Benjamin, president of Greylock Market LLC, is scheduled to take place at City Hall on Wednesday.
"We invited Blair Benjamin to meet with the board, but he has requested to meet with Charles, myself, as chair of the Historical Commission, and Gene [Carlson] as a mediator," she said.
Cahoon said despite Mayor Richard Alcombright's pledge to help find a new location, keeping the volunteer-run museum open in a different spot would be a challenge.
"If we acquire a new facility, how will we finance that? It's been suggested we charge admission. We haven't done that now because we are on city property -- this space has been on loan to us," he said. "If we charge admission, we'll have to do a lot more advertising. Another aspect we have to consider, is if we get a new facility, we'll have to staff it regularly."
Two suggested locations -- the former Methodist Church and the former Notre Dame School -- have both been viewed and found unsuitable, he said. Board member Lillian Glickman said she can't imagine a better place for the museum to exist.
"Maybe I'm being Pollyannish, but we have the complete history of the city," she said. "This park will be the entrance to Mount Greylock. I can't imagine a better place for us to be located."
Morandi added that in the dozen years the museum has been located in Building 5A, some 3,000 students have come through it, as well as numerous groups from the Massachusetts Teachers Association during the annual conference.
Northern Berkshire Community Television's need to search for a new location hasn't ruffled too many feathers at the community access station, according to Executive Director David Fabiano.
"We want people to know that we're going to continue on as an organization and we're going to be here," he said Friday. "We've been in this building since 1995, but we've always had a one-year lease. Since the beginning we've been putting aside money, knowing that the day may come that we're asked to move or the park could take off and the space would become more valuable and lead to our rent being adjusted."
Fabiano said the nonprofit is currently working with a local Realtor to find a new location -- either to lease or to purchase -- in the city or Adams.