Museums in the Berkshires
The Berkshires are a wonderful place to visit if you’re looking for museums. The Berkshires are home to some of the best museums in the country, and they’re all within a short drive from each other. From MASS MoCA, the Clark Art Institute, and Williams College Museum of Art in the Northern Berkshires, to the Berkshire Museum, and Norman Rockwell Museum in the Central and Southern Berkshire regions.
Norman Rockwell Museum
The Norman Rockwell Museum is one of the most popular museums in the Berkshires and home to the world’s largest collection of original art by American illustrator Norman Rockwell. Located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the museum is dedicated to the life and work of American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell.
Founded in 1969 with the help of Norman and Molly Rockwell, Norman Rockwell Museum is dedicated to the enjoyment and study of Rockwell’s work and his contributions to society, popular culture, and social commentary. The Museum, which is accredited by the American Association of Museums, is the most popular year-round cultural attraction in the Berkshires.
The Museum houses the world’s largest and most significant collection of Rockwell’s work, including 998 original paintings and drawings. Rockwell lived in Stockbridge for the last 25 years of his life. Rockwell’s Stockbridge studio, moved to the Museum site, is open to the public from May through October, and features original art materials, his library, furnishings, and personal items. The Museum also houses the Norman Rockwell Archives, a collection of more than 100,000 items, including working photographs, letters, personal calendars, fan mail, and business documents.
A trip to the Berkshires is not complete without a visit to MASS MoCA. This museum is an art and performance space that was founded in 1999 and houses over 16,000 objects including paintings, sculptures, films, and other media. Their exhibitions change with every season so there’s always something new for you to discover!
The museum, located in a former factory, features two floors to explore. You can also visit their outdoor sculpture garden, which is free of charge.
The museum also has a cafe and bookstore, as well as a gift shop. If you’re looking for something to do in the Berkshires before or after you visit MASS MoCA, there are plenty of other attractions nearby, in Williamstown and North Adams.
Clark Art Institute
The Clark Art Institute. located in Williamstown, was founded in 1878 and has a collection of over 11,000 works of art. The museum’s permanent collection includes paintings by renowned American artists such as Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper, as well as European artists like Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso.
The Clark Art Institute’s campus is also home to the Massachusetts Museum School of Deaf Education & Arts Integration (SMDEDAI), which provides educational opportunities for hearing-impaired students across New England.
The museum is named for George and Mary Jane Clark, who donated their art collection to the city of Williamstown. The couple created the museum in hopes of providing educational opportunities for local students and residents. The Clark Art Institute has grown considerably over its 125-year history, expanding from a small house on Main Street into a sprawling campus on 500 acres of land.
In 1903, Berkshire Museum founder Zenas Crane, inspired by such institutions as the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, decided to blend the best attributes of these establishments in a new museum for the people of Western Massachusetts.
The Berkshire Museum combines art, science, and history to create thought-provoking experiences for visitors of all ages.
The museum’s diverse collection of more than 40,000 objects is brought to life year round through exhibitions, educational programming, digital content, and community events. We truly are your community museum, offering access to education and culture to the residents of Pittsfield, the Berkshires, and beyond.
The Berkshire Museum features enriching exhibitions on three floors of its century-old building. Below the lobby level, an Aquarium plays host to hundreds of live specimens including native and exotic fish, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Upstairs, visitors will find an ever-changing assortment of interdisciplinary exhibitions that tell the endless stories behind the fine art, historical artifacts, and natural science specimens that make up the museum’s fascinating collection.
Beyond the museum’s walls, Berkshire Museum brings the museum’s objects, exhibitions, and programming directly to the community and the world through video, articles, podcasts, activities, and virtual events. An expert team of museum educators provide virtual and in-person lessons on science and culture to students of all ages.
Bidwell House Museum
The Bidwell House Museum, set in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts, is an elegant Georgian saltbox originally built circa 1760 as a parsonage. Authentically restored, filled with period furnishings, and surrounded by 192 acres of beautiful grounds and hiking trails, the museum tells the story of the early settlement of the Berkshires. Guided tours are available by appointment. The grounds and gardens are open every day, year-round, free of charge.
The Bidwell House was built by the Reverend Adonijah Bidwell (1716-1784) the first minister of Township No. 1 (today’s Monterey and Tyringham). The house and property stayed in the Bidwell family through three generations, and the architecture reflects all three: the ell on the north side was built by Rev. Bidwell’s son, Adonijah Jr., in the 1820s, and the wing to the east was built by his grandson, John Devotion Bidwell, in 1836. The house was sold out of the family in 1853.
Today the museum owns 192 acres, which includes the original 60 acre house lot given to Rev. Bidwell when he arrived. Although it now appears isolated, in 1760 the home was in the center of town, built on the Royal Hemlock Road, the main road connecting the two settlements of Township No. 1, close to the intersection with the Boston-Albany Post Road. The original meeting house was located just south of the Bidwell House.
Crane Museum of Papermaking
The mission of the Crane Museum of Papermaking is to collect, care for, and exhibit the history of Crane Currency in order to create an entertaining and educational experience of Crane Currency’s unique story, as well as the art and science of papermaking with a special focus on currency paper and anti-counterfeiting technologies.
The Crane Museum of Papermaking is located in what was the rag room of Crane’s Old Stone Mill, dating back to 1844. This was the first mill built by the second generation of Crane papermakers in Dalton, Mass.— Zenas Marshall and James Brewer Crane, following the retirement of the pioneer papermaker Zenas Crane.
The Museum opened in 1930 after an extensive renovation, making it one of the oldest corporate museums in the country. The grounds were designed by the F.L and J.C Olmsted firm. Exhibits in the Museum trace the 250-year history of Crane papermaking from The Liberty Paper Mill in Milton, Mass., which operated from 1770 to 1793, to the present. The Liberty Mill was indeed a cradle of the American Revolution, serving such revolutionary luminaries as Paul Revere, Henry Knox, John Hancock and a host of others responsible for today’s freedom.
Since 1879 Crane has continuously supplied banknote paper for United States currency. Anti-counterfeiting technologies have been developed, updated and implemented by Crane since 1844. The Museum was expanded in 2001 as part of the company’s bicentennial celebration, and again in 2014 to accommodate corporate archives and create an area for hands-on papermaking and paper arts. The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Williams College Museum of Art
The Williams College Museum of Art, located in Williamstown, MA, features over 6,000 works of art. The museum is the only one in Berkshire County that focuses on art from the 18th century to today. It is also one of the largest college museums in New England. It has hosted over 60 exhibitions and has been reviewed in Art in America, ARTnews, New Criterion, The New York Times and other publications.
The Williams College Museum of Art sits in the beautiful campus of Williams College and open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.