Art & Science of Paper at the Berkshire Museum this Summer

Berkshire Museum presents PaperWorks: The Art and Science of an Extraordinary Material

Butterfly, Hina Aoyama, image courtesy Christopher Henry GalleryWhat role does paper play in your family’s daily life?  Bedtime stories are printed on it, homework is written on it, a bin in your garage collects it for recycling and reuse.  However, the history, science, and artistic potential of paper is much more complex and fascinating than the average person’s experience with the material might suggest.

On Saturday, June 15th, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA unveils PaperWorks, a gallery show made up of beautiful paper works of art and paper-related artifacts.  The goal of the exhibit is to showcase the wide array of work that can be created with paper (it’s not all origami!), as well as to highlight the role that history, science, and culture play in the manufacture and use of papers of all kinds.  Visitors to the exhibit can view work created by more than thirty different artists from all over the country (and even a few from Europe!), including papercut animations and mathematically sound sculptures made from sheets of folded paper.  Along with the fascinating works of art, visitors can view and learn about various paper-related artifacts, including jewelry, furniture, and other surprising objects!

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Photography of Ansel Adams Comes to Western MA!

Ansel Adams: Masterworks on View
Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA
February 9th – June 2nd, 2013

Berkshire Museum presents the special photography exhibition Ansel Adams: Masterworks from February 9 to June 2, 2013. An opening reception will be held Saturday, February 9, from 5 to 7pm. The exhibition features forty-eight works by Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984), about two-thirds of a selection Adams made late in his life to serve as a succinct representation of his life’s work. He himself felt these photographs were his best. The images are from the Collection of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, CA.

The Berkshire Museum welcomes their newest exhibit this week!  Beginning February 9th, “Ansel Adams: Masterworks,” will be down in the museum’s galleries.  The show contains 48 pieces of Adams’ most striking nature photography, on loan from the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, CA.  Titled, “The Museum Set,” the works feature scenes from across the country – Yosemite National Park to groves of aspens in Colorado, Cape Cod to the Sierra Nevada.

Known for his breathtaking landscapes, Adams’ work also represented his commitment to the preservation of the natural world.  In photographing beautiful places in nature, he shared with others a love of the outdoors and an appreciation for the natural beauty of the world.  Not only is his work unique and beautiful art, but it sends a message to viewers – one that is difficult to forget.  The photographs are moving, and remind all who see them that nature is a precious resource.

A visit to the exhibit is perfect for young, budding photographers – they can learn about the scale upon which photography can take place, and will see classic examples of nature photography, not to mention a great supplement to art studies.  They can also learn to appreciate photography the way it used to be – when film and darkrooms were used, and digital point-and-shoot had yet to be thought of.  Non-photographers can learn from the exhibit, too – after viewing the images, think about the message that they send for conservation and the role that art plays in helping to create cultural change.

The exhibit is open during the Berkshire Museum’s regular hours, 10am-5pm Monday-Saturday and 12noon-5pm on Sundays.  For more information, call the museum at 413-443-7171. berkshiremuseum.org

[Image credit: Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958. Photograph by Ansel Adams. ©2012 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust]

Engaging Exhibits & Hands-On Programs at the Berkshire Museum this Winter

Engaging Experiences at the Berkshire Museum

When you think of the Berkshires, images of the green and blanketed Tanglewood lawn may come to mind, or the beautiful colors of fall in the Hilltowns, but the Berkshires don’t close up shop for the winter! The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA has a busy winter season planned, with engaging new exhibitions, hands-on public programming, and lots of opportunities for family fun and learning.

Because the bat population is so fragile, Bats: Creatures of the Night features bat models that visitors can learn from rather than live bats, but the Berkshire Museum will host live bats on March 10th at 1pm! In a one-day-only special event, Rob Mies of the Organization for Bat Conservation will present a big brown bat, fruit bats from Africa and Asia, and the largest bat in the world- the Malayan flying fox – which sports an incredible six-foot wingspan.

The Berkshire Museum’s newest exhibit, Bats: Creatures of the Night, will be on exhibit through May 12, 2013, and is filled with opportunities to have fun while learning about these mysterious creatures. Grab a gallery guide as you enter the exhibit, choose a bat persona, and begin the Bat Survival Challenge, a game that leads you around the exhibit as you see if you can survive a year in the life of a bat. You can also learn how bats navigate and hunt by approaching the museum’s sensor-filled echolocation wall and watching how and when the bat-mimicking sensors pick you up. There are giant bat ears that you can try listening through to see how well bats hear. There are also plenty of bat mounts and models that allow you to see just what these mammals look like up close. Some of them have some pretty funky features!

The Berkshire Museum education department is offering a brand new education program with this exhibition. Bats: Out of the Cave and into the Night can be adapted to students of all ages. In it students will learn about bats’ incredible adaptations, how they benefit us and our environment, and the risks they are facing. Students and teachers will also get to experiment with the Berkshire Museum’s own echolocation machine, BAT-BOT. Teachers- can you navigate blindly through a maze of your students using only the readouts from the museum’s echolocation sensors? Come find out, and then challenge your students to navigate like bats as well. Families can also try BAT-BOT during the museum’s Bats gallery program, which will be presented in the Bats exhibit halls on the second Saturday of each month, through May, at 11am.

Winter can be a time where kids can go a little ‘batty’ themselves. Fortunately the Berkshire Museum has several programs were kids can come in, explore, experiment, and play!

Get a taste of chemistry as a mad scientist at Kitchen Kaboom! at the Berkshire Museum on the last Saturday of every month! Along with the help of the museum’s very own crazy chemist, kids can learn how to do exciting and surprising (and safe!) experiments with regular household materials.

Kitchen Ka-Boom, the museum’s new family-friendly physical science program, offers kids the opportunity to learn while making a mess! Whether participants are shooting a rocket to the ceiling with Alka-Seltzer and water, or making gooey slime, participants are learning through some sort of surprise reaction. Taking place on the last Saturday of every month, all experiments involve simple and kid-friendly ingredients, most of which can be found around the house or at your local grocery store. Each participant leaves with a sheet of information detailing the science behind the experiment and how you can replicate it at home. This information is also posted on the museum’s website in case you want to see what we’re up to from home. The museum strives to introduce new experiments each session, keeping budding scientists coming back! Find program details here: Kitchen Ka-Boom.

Animals Up Close: The Wolf will be presented on Tuesday, February 19, at 1pm, featuring special guest Atka, an Arctic Gray Wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. As an animal ambassador, Atka travels to help educate people about wolves and their relationship to our environment, and how humans have an important role in protecting their future.

WeeMuse: Ten Days of Play begins at the museum on Thursday, February 14, continuing through Saturday, February 23. Have you ever spent hours choosing the best new toy for your child, only to find that they are much more excited to play with box it came in? This ubiquitous experience is the basis for this exciting new program. Ten Days of Play highlights the importance of child-directed play. The Crane Room will be filled with play materials like paper and cardboard boxes that you and your child can use in whatever way you imagine daily from 11-3pm. This program is free with museum admission and presented in partnership with the Transition Team of Pittsfield and Pop-Up Adventure Play.

Do you have a budding filmmaker who will be home during February break? Send them to the museum for February Vacation Movie Camp! From Monday, February 18, through Friday, February 22, students in grades 3-6 will get the opportunity to work a group film with film producer Erica Spizz. Students will be involved with all aspects of the film, from creating the storyline to the acting and filming. On Friday, Feb. 22,  friends and families will get to watch the final product in a special screening in the Berkshire Museum Theater.  And this summer, the Berkshire Museum will offer some new and exciting  summer camps, as well as some returning favorites!

ABOUT THE BERKSHIRE MUSEUM

The Berkshire Museum is located at 39 South Street on Route 7 in downtown Pittsfield, MA. The Museum was established by Zenas Crane in 1903 as a museum of art and natural history. Little Cinema is open year-round; Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, Aquarium, and other exhibits are ongoing.  The Museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10am-5pm and Sunday 12noon-5pm. For more information, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org or call 413-443-7171. Museum admission is $13 for adults and $6 for children. Members and children aged three and under enjoy free admission.

-Emma Kerr


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma Kerr is the Natural Science Education Specialist at the Berkshire Museum, where she teaches school and public programs on all subjects, from animation to aquarium animals. A native of central Massachusetts, Emma now lives in Pittsfield.

Learn About Bats: Interactive Exhibit, Facts & Habitat

Berkshire Museum presents
Bats: Creatures of the Night
Learn the true story of the only flying mammal
from January 19 to May 12, 2013

Discover bat habitats and where the different species live around the globe at the Berkshire Museum exhibit, Bats: Creatures of the Night. Match different kinds of bats with their preferred foods. Explore life-size models of a variety of bats, from the Fisher Bat and the Honduran White Bat to the Gray-headed Flying Fox Bat. View exciting photographs of bats in action, featuring the Gambian Epauleted Fruit Bat and the Mexican Free-tailed Bat, among many others. Exhibit opens January 19th and run through March 12th, 2013.

Forget the myths and learn the truth about bats: they are gentle, beneficial animals that play an important role in our planet’s ecology. With larger-than-life models and interactive stations, visitors to Bats: Creatures of the Night at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield can experience the sensitivity of bat hearing, discover how bats find their way in the dark, and understand how mother bats locate their young. The exhibition opens January 19 and runs through March 12, 2013.

Bats use echolocation to navigate the dark, and at the Berkshire Museum, you and your family can try it out! Echolocation is just one of the many bat-related concepts highlighted in Bats: Creatures of the Night. The exhibit features a rich array of video, photography, life-like models, and interactive stations to inform museum guests about how interesting–and vital–bats are. The interactive stations sound particularly interesting, including opportunities to simulate echolocation, learn how mama bats keep tabs on their young, and trying on bat “ears.”

The exhibit runs from January 19th through May 12, 2013. The Exhibition Opening Day happens on Saturday, January 19th from 1-3pm, with a number of activities appropriate for all ages. Kids can experiment with echolocation, go on a scavenger hunt through the museum, or get crafty and make a pair of batwings. There will be an introductory slide show at 4pm, and a preview reception from 5-7pm (museum admission is free after 5pm). There is also a gallery walk about bats with an expert on February 9 at 11am. You can read more about it at: berkshiremuseum.org

BAT FACTS & BOOKS

Bats are fascinating. The largest bats have a wingspan of 6 feet and the smallest weigh as much as a dime. They can eat 2,000-6,000 mosquitoes per night and digest fruit in 20 minutes. Of the more than 1000 species of bats around the world, only three are “vampire” bats, who drink the blood of live animals. While vampire bats have sullied the reputation of this useful and gentle mammal, they are intriguing. Vampire bats have an anti-coagulant in their saliva that keeps the blood flowing as long as they are feeding, but allows the animal to heal quickly upon their departure. Vampire bats are also particularly social and have been known to bring food to elderly or sick bats. Bats play an essential role in the ecosystem, as pollinators, seed dispersers and pest managers.

Books to consider for exploring bats at home:

MAKE YOUR OWN BAT HOUSE

Want to attract bats around your home? Put up a bat house! Families can make their own bat house at an Audubon workshop to be held on Saturday April 13, 2013 at 1:30 at the Audubon Society in Lenox . The program begins with a slide show about bats in our area, as well as their natural history. While there is a registration fee, it includes the materials to construct one bat house. Be sure to bring a hammer. The workshop is suitable for children over 5, as long as they are with an adult. You can read more about it at www.massaudubon.org. – If you can’t make the workshop but still want to make a bat house with your kids, check out these DIY Bat House Kits..


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Heary-Selah — Theresa is a teacher and a freelance writer, making her home in Greenfield, MA and Wright, NY with her family.  She teaches at S.H.I.N.E. (Students at Home in New England), a social and academic support program for middle school students in the Pioneer Valley, and writes about home-schooling and technology.  Theresa’s interests include home-schooling, gardening, cooking, hiking, and dancing.

[Photo credit: Evergreen Exhibitions]

Community Cookie Contest at Berkshire Museum

Let’s Bake Cookies! Berkshire Museum to Host Cookie Contest During Holiday Season
Saturday, December 8th in Pittsfield

Baking cookies with your kids can afford parents a chance to share family their history through recipes while working together as a team in the kitchen practicing math and literacy skills!

Does your family have a favorite and treasured holiday cookie recipe that has been passed down through the generations? Show it off by entering your family recipe in the Berkshire Museum’s cookie contest! The event, which is part of a launch celebration for local author Gina Hyams’ Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box: Everything You Need to Host a Christmas Cookie Contest, will be judged by museum visitors and the recipients of each People’s Choice Award will also get a free family museum membership and a copy of the book!  But just participating with your kids alone is an award that can’t be matched!

Families (and individual participants) are asked to bake 4 dozen of their favorite cookie, an endeavor that requires family cooperation and teamwork and provides an opportunity to practice kitchen skills (as well as the basic math and literacy that recipe-following calls for). For an added educational bonus, try featuring as many locally grown and/or produced ingredients as possible, like milk, eggs, butter, maple syrup and honey, and talk as a family about the benefits of eating and buying local.

Inspired to do your own cookie contest yet? The book includes everything a family needs to host their own event, and offers ideas, resources, and more for hosting a cookie contest on any scale! Contests can be held just for fun at family holiday gatherings, used as a fundraiser for a community organization, and more. The contest and book launch will take place on Saturday, December 8th at 2:30pm at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. To enter the contest itself, contact Craig Langlois at 413-443-7171 ex 13, or clanglois@berkshiremuseum.org.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Iryna Yeroshko]

Two Western MA Exhibits Explore Native American Art & Culture

Native American Heritage Month Celebrated Across Western MA

On Saturday, November 10, and Sunday, November 11, 2012, Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield will celebrate Native American Heritage Month with four exceptional performances featuring music, stories, and dance. The festival will feature the rich history and culture of the Mohawk and Nipmuck tribes, conveyed through storytelling, music, and ritual. The performers are Jerry Thundercloud McDonald, Joseph Firecrow (pictured here), Larry Spotted Crow Mann, and Sandy Rhodes. For more information, visit www,berkshiremuseum.org or contact the Berkshire Museum at 413-443-7171. (Photo credit: David Carnes)

Fall is often a time when students learn about the history of America and the American Revolution – topics that lend themselves to studies of Native American history and culture, as well.  Students’ learning about Native American ways of life during Native American Heritage Month can be supplemented by a visit to a gallery show of Native American artwork – either at Westfield State University or the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield!

The Berkshire Museum’s exhibit, Rethink! Native American Art, features a wide variety of work from Native American groups nationwide, and is open through January 6th.  Along with the exhibit, the museum is hosting a series of community events featuring Native American music, dance, storytelling, and more.  On November 10th and 11th, the museum will host the Chief Konkapot Festival of Native American culture, offering visitors a chance to see a variety of performances showcasing the traditions of numerous nations from across North America, including:

  • Saturday, November 10th at 1pm – Jerry Thundercloud McDonald presents Mohawk music, stories, and dance. McDonald will also speak on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s influence on the formation of the U.S. Constitution. ($$)
  • Saturday, November 10th at 7pm – Joseph Firecrow of the Northern Cheyenne, a Grammy-nominated Northern Cheyenne musician and master of the traditional Native American flute, will perform a special concert.  ($$)
  • Sunday, November 11th at 1pm – Larry Spotted Crow Mann, Nipmuck poet and author of Tales from the Whispering Basket, presents Nipmuck stories, songs, and drum with the Quabbin Lake Singers. ($$)
  • Sunday, November 11th at 3pm – Sandy Rhodes will be presenting contemporary pow wow culture, dance, and regalia. ($$)

Follow the festival at the museum, the Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield will be hosting a free performance by Joseph Firecrow on Monday, November 12th at 12:15pm, sponsored by the BCC Committee for Diversity.

Westfield State University’s Arno Maris Gallery will host an exhibit of Native American Culture and Tradition through Saturday, December 8th, 2012. The exhibit will feature works from Native American artists Lenny Novak and Dan Shears.

Another opportunity to see contemporary Native American art in Western MA will be at the Arno Maris Gallery in Westfield State’s Ely Campus Center in Hampden County.  The gallery is hosting an exhibit of unique, handcrafted dreamcatchers – made in a traditional style that only five people are trained in!  Students can learn about the intricate nature of dreamcatcher making, as well as the significance of the pieces in Native American culture.  The exhibit runs through December 8th, and admission to the gallery is free.

Both exhibits offer unique learning opportunities, and showcase artwork that is not often accessible.  Each show provides an in-depth look at Native American traditions, and highlights the important role that artistic expression plays in Native American culture.

15 Films Tell the History of Film at the Berkshire Museum

The Story of Film: An Odyssey
Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA
Oct 18 – Dec 13, 2012

The Berkshire Museum’s Little Cinema is offering an in-depth look at the history of films!  The cinema will screen The Story of Film: An Odyssey in eight parts on Thursdays between October 18th and December 13th, starting with “Birth of Cinema:”

The series, which totals just over 15 hours in length, has been divided into fifteen parts – two of which will be shown each week.

Pieced together by film historian Mark Cousins, the series covers literally all of film history, beginning in Thomas Edison’s New Jersey laboratory and ending with a critical look at the multi-billion dollar, technology advanced modern film industry.  Other topics covered include early Hollywood, and the creation of the glitzy Hollywood dream; the so-called “golden age” of cinema, along with the artistry of expressionism, surrealism, and impressionism; the incorporation of sound and color into film; and the effects of changes in American culture on film, especially during eras of historical importance (post WWII, the 1970’s, etc.).

Most appropriate for older students, the film series offers lots of information, presented and narrated in a way that is easily understood.  Students can tie what they learn about film history to their own prior knowledge of American history and culture, and the development of technology.  Each screening costs $5, but passes to all eight screenings are available for $25.  There will be no screening on Thanksgiving – Thursday, November 22nd.  For more information call 413-443-7171 or visit www.berkshiremuseum.org.

SYNOPSES OF FILMS:

October 18, 7 p.m.
Part 1: “Birth of the Cinema” (1900–1920)
Filmed in the very buildings where the first movies were made, this hour shows ideas and passion as the driving forces behind film, more so than money and marketing. It covers the very first movie stars, the close up shot, special effects, and the creation of the Hollywood myth, along with a surprise: the women who were the greatest — and best-paid — writers in these early years.
Part 2: “The Hollywood Dream” (1920s)
Star/directors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton made Hollywood a glittering entertainment industry. But the gloss and fantasy was challenged by movie makers like Robert Flaherty, Eric Von Stroheim, and Carl Theodor Dreyer, who wanted films to be more serious and mature. The result of this battle for the soul of cinema: some of the greatest movies ever made.

October 25, 7 p.m.
Part 3: “Expressionism, Impressionism, and Surrealism: Golden Age of World Cinema” (1920s)
German Expressionism, Soviet montage, French impressionism and surrealism pushed the boundaries of film as passionate new movements. Less known are the glories of Chinese and Japanese films, and the moving story of a great, now-forgotten, movie star, Ruan Lingyu.
Part 4: “The Arrival of Sound” (1930s)
Along with the advent of sound with film comes a host of new genres: screwball comedies, gangster pictures, horror films, westerns, and musicals. Director Howard Hawks was a master of most of them. During this period, Alfred Hitchcock hits his stride and French directors become masters of mood.
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A Day at the Berkshire Musuem

Mummified in the Berkshires

The performance of "The Mummy's Tale and Other Stories from the Great Beyond" sparked the boys imaginations! (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

As the heat wave continued, the boys and I packed it all up for a full day at The Berkshire Museum, including a performance of The Mummy’s Tale and Other Stories from the Great Beyond. My youngest child is four years old so I was unsure he’d be able to sit through a play. I was even a little nervous that he might be scared of the mummy, or more likely of the house lights going dark.  It turned out there was nothing to fear and so much to enjoy. Ancient myths are comics full larger than life characters – the very good, the ever so bad, all saviors, helpers, hopeless causes. Because of this, the boys just ate them up. They jeered at bad guys and cheered for happy endings. We all danced and laughed along with the young cast who came out after the show to thank the audience and gave the little kids high-fives and big smiles.

After the show, we wandered downstairs for Chow Time at the aquarium, which is held each Saturday at 12:30. We watched tortoises crunch salads bigger than their shells, turtles dive for earthworms and geckos go for jumping crickets.  After a quick stop at the touch tank to visit with the sea-stars, we headed upstairs.

Mummy Jigsaw Puzzle (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The current exhibit , Wrapped: The Search for the Essential Mummy, is open through the end of October. It’s an extensive adventure into the forensic science of exploring mummies.  The interactive science exhibits were fun, but what my boys truly loved was the art.  The performance had sparked their imaginations. We spent the afternoon examining hieroglyphs, tomb art, headdresses and necklaces. If you go, don’t miss the mummified animals – snakes, cats and more, wrapped to spend eternity with their beloved owners, I suppose.

We moved back down stairs where the Berkshire Backyard exhibit showed us how much there will always be more to explore in the amazing Berkshires. The kids and I tested our animal tracking skills – more successfully than ever this time. We flight tested feathers and even examined a working bee hive, which included access via a plexiglass tube through a window, to the actual outside Berkshires!

Dinosaur excavation (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Just before it was time to go, we had our own excavation in the dinosaur exhibit. Once goggled, the boys dug industriously in the pea stones dumping them in the trenches to uncover their own dinosaur discoveries. Theo insisted on digging for mummies or snake mummies, but kept finding dinosaur bones anyway. He was the smallest most aggravated little excavator around that day. “This is not a mummy! It’s a dinosaur!”

We left the Berkshire Museum with a few corners not yet explored and made note to come back for more adventures in the fall.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

The Family Friendly Berkshires

The Family Friendly Berkshires: A Place to Dig Culture—and Dinosaurs

Dipping your feet in a rushing stream, flying kites on a spectacular open hillside, picnicking amid a lush mountain landscape: Images of summer in the country conjure up powerful memories—and are why many of us have to visit a pastoral spot to vacation. Our children love rural adventures, too, but youngsters today need more than simple pleasures. Berkshire County’s year round mix of breathtaking natural scenery, kid-friendly cultural attractions—many with children’s programming and discounts—and exciting outdoor activities is one big reason so many families come to visit.

Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA

Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, is one of the nation’s finest small museums and one of the few where art, history and the natural world are displayed in one place. Best of all, it is certifiably “unstuffy.” “Wally,” an imposing 10-foot high, 26-foot long Stegosaurus, graces the front lawn, capturing kids’ attention at once. Inside, marvel at the diverse permanent collection in 18 galleries on three floors. The museum’s magnificent 26-tank aquarium includes an Atlantic Tidal Pool “Touch Tank” for kids. Natural Science comprises the museum’s largest collection, where the biggest attraction is a “Dinosaurs and Paleontology” gallery that shows how paleontologists use fossils and other evidence to understand the prehistoric world. Here the “Dino Dig” lets everyone get in the act—actually digging down to touchable replicas of dinosaur bones. The art collection includes ancient art from around the world and 14th-19th century European art, but don’t overlook the Refrigerator Art Gallery, featuring children’s artwork in (or “on”) a familiar setting. Kid’s programs run all summer, with a variety of day- and week-long camps, from “Art & Crafts Camp” to “Native American Day Camp.”

Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA. (Photo credit: Gardner)

The Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, presents “family days” year round, while Kidspace at MASS MoCA is a collaborative project between the Williams College Museum of Art, The Clark and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). This art gallery and studio space in the heart of North Adams’ MoCA complex is designed especially for students, teachers, and families.

Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA. (Photo credit: rwjensen)

Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, admits children 12 and under free. Youngsters delight in meeting the Village’s historic breeds of livestock in the farmyard and pastures. The Discovery Room offers hands on activities such as trying on Shaker-style clothing, spinning wool and weaving, and milking Mary Jane, a life-sized Holstein cow replica. Sheep Hill, Williamstown, owned by the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, offers picnicking, hiking and birdwatching and seasonal events including snowshoe, full moon and firefly hikes; star gazing; kids nature programs; and tracking workshops.

Western Gateway Heritage State Park in North Adams, MA.

In North Adams, admission is free to the Visitors Center at Western Gateway Heritage State Park, where imaginative exhibits unveil the story behind the Hoosac Tunnel. Two hundred men lost their lives as the tunnel, one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century, was dug nearly five miles through Hoosac Mountain, linking Massachusetts to Albany, NY. Rail aficionados young and old will also enjoy the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum, Lenox. There they can ride along the River between Lenox and Stockbridge as they enjoy a narrated diesel hauled 20 mile trip in vintage coaches.

Jiminy Peak Mountain Adventure Park in Hancock, MA.

At summer camps throughout Berkshire County youngsters can choose traditional programs or specialize in art, dance, music, theater and sports, and even character building and leadership development. Local ski areas also offer exciting family activities in summer. These include waterslides and go carts at Bousquet Ski Resort & Summer Family Fun Center, Pittsfield, and a Mountain Coaster, rock climbing wall and Euro-Bungee Trampoline, among other attractions, at Jiminy Peak Mountain Adventure Park, Hancock.

Agriculture is clearly a vital part of county life, and several Berkshire farms offer families an up-close look. In Hancock, the 600-acre Ioka Valley Farm and Uncle Don’s Barnyard provide “agri-entertainment,” including a hay maze, hayrides, pedal tractors and petting animals. A riding day camp, trail riding and hunt seat and dressage instruction are among the offerings for horse-loving families at Undermountain Farm, Lenox.

Mummies Come to the Berkshires

Wrapped! Search for the Essential Mummy
Tells the Inside Story of Mummies: both figuratively and literally!

"Wrapped! Search for the Essential Mummy" will be on view from June 19 to October 31, 2010. at the Berkshire Museum in Downtown Pittsfield. FATHER'S DAY SPECIAL: On June 20th, kids can bring their Dads for Free!

Museum visitors often leave an exhibition of Egyptian artifacts with the impression that mummies are all the same and that all mummies were kings or princes during their lives. In reality, mummies are individuals; they vary in terms of their manner of preparation, the decoration of their sarcophagi, and the region in which they lived. And, of course, before they were mummies, they were living people, of either gender, belonging to different classes, working in a variety of occupations – who died of as many causes as people die today. Underneath their ancient linen wrappings lies a multitude of mysteries often too great for scientists and researchers to uncover. Nevertheless, since their first discovery by Western cultures, seekers across the centuries have been trying to unwrap the secrets of mummies.

From June 19 to October 31, 2010, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA will take museum visitors several steps closer on this quest. The Museum’s groundbreaking, world-premiere exhibition, Wrapped! Search for the Essential Mummy, transports visitors to the Egyptian tombs of Akhmim and the funerary tables and labs of ancient mortuaries; through the discovery of mummies by Western explorers and the ensuing “unrolling” soirees of the 19th century, to current-day mummy research, including reconstruction of mummies’ facial features in sculptural busts and digitizing mummies’ body cavities using cutting-edge scanning technology from the leading radiology labs of North America.

Wrapped! takes visitors to the awesome cliffs of Akhmim, Egypt and its sprawling cemetery– 300 miles south of Cairo – the year is 1884 and mummies are being pulled from their ancient tombs by the hundreds. Among those buried in the loose limestone of Akhmim was Pahat, who lived a full life as a smaty priest of the temple cult of Min. Pahat was carefully mummified 2,300 years ago with the best funerary methods and craftsmanship of his era. At the turn of the 20th century, Pahat was excavated, removed from his resting place, and eventually sold to Zenas Crane in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for the now-paltry sum of $300. Crane donated Pahat to Berkshire Museum, which the philanthropist founded in 1903, where the prized mummy has remained on display to this day.

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Who Dwells in the Pittsfield State Forest?

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Bioblitz in the Berkshires
Friday & Saturday, June 4th-5th in Pittsfield, MA

Specialist will be on-hand to explore and educate, including reptile and amphibian specialist, BCC Professor Tom Tyning. Link to schedule is below. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Celebrating the United Nation’s “Year of Biodiversity,” the Berkshire Museum is holding Berkshire County’s first BioBlitz in Pittsfield State Forest from noon on Friday, June 4th to noon on Saturday, June 5th, 2010. The weekend event will allow scientists and local residents to document the extensive variety of life in their immediate area and see first-hand the diversity and importance of the clean and active ecosystems in their own backyard.

The BioBlitz is an opportunity for biologists, naturalists, and environmentalists to gather in a given area and in a 24-hour period complete a formal survey of all living species. Specialists such as BCC Professor Tom Tyning (reptiles and amphibians), Harvard botanist Walter Kittredge (flowering plants), Berkshire Wild Mushrooms’ John Wheeler (fungi) and Sage College Professor Emeritus Nancy Slack (mosses) will be on-hand to explore and educate. The public is welcome to attend to watch the scientists work, and even participate in sorting specimens.

The biological survey is the “core” of the Berkshire BioBlitz, and anchors a number of interactive, nature-oriented programs which have been scheduled around it. For example, on Friday night, a lively “BioBlitz Drum and Campfire Jam” will take place, followed by a “Moth-Light” demonstration and an “Owl Prowl” hike. A bird walk and a “fitness hike” will be held the following morning, as well as a presentation on Asian Longhorned Beetles—an invasive insect species recently discovered in Worcester, MA.

“It’s a great opportunity for people from all walks of life to come together and learn about their own backyard,” said Berkshire Museum Natural Science Coordinator, Scott LaGreca. “It’s a powerful tool we can use to get people away from their television sets and computer monitors, and spend time outside—providing an antidote to what some educators have dubbed ‘nature-deficit disorder’. It provides valuable information about Pittsfield State Forest’s flora and fauna that can be used by Pittsfield State Forest staff to better manage the local resources.”

The Pittsfield State Forest is located just five miles from downtown Pittsfield. From Park Square, go west on West Street for 2.7 miles. Turn right on Churchill Street and continue for .7 miles. Turn left onto Cascade Street and continue for .3 miles. The entrance to the forest in just over a mile on your left-hand side.

All events are free and held at the Pittsfield State Forest. Friday evening programs and Saturday morning naturalist hikes are weather-permitting. For a full schedule, click here. Call Scott LaGreca at 413.443.7171, ext. 17 to sign up

Armed & Dangerous: Explorations of Human Culture and the Animal Kingdom

Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield Starts 2010 with a Bang:
Armed & Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal opens January 23

Armed & Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal on display at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA from January 23rd - June 6th, 2010

Berkshire Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Armed & Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal, explores the evolution, function, and craft of weaponry and armor throughout human culture and the animal kingdom. This exhilarating exhibition, drawn primarily from the Museum’s permanent collection, runs from January 23 through June 6.

Man and animals have always been Armed & Dangerous. From the heroic warrior of the legendary past to the modern military soldier, humankind has relied on arms and armor to convey dominance, power, and status. Weapons and armor reflect the evolution of technology, class, mythmaking, and personal identity and have enormous implications for our understanding of changes in human culture.

“The sheer diversity of materials and the exquisite craftsmanship of the weapons on view in Armed & Dangerous is testament to how important weapons are to the people who make and use them,” said director of interpretation at the Berkshire Museum, Maria Mingalone. “From a historical perspective, the exhibition spans centuries and continents, showing how arms and armor illustrate the evolution of technology, and mythmaking. Weapons are a history of the human experience and a great example of how diverse cultures cope with the challenges of conflict and survival.”

Mankind has always created and used weapons and armor in order to fight, protect, and intimidate. Many of these armaments have been inspired by the natural world, where fierce fangs, claws, beaks, and horns are displayed not only to injure or kill other animals, but also to avoid battle through demonstrations of dominance. Armed & Dangerous features the arsenal of the natural world alongside man-made weaponry from a global array of cultures and time periods.

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Frogs Educate and Fascinate Museum Goers in Pittsfield, MA

Frogs: A Chorus of Color at the Berkshire Museum

Waxy Monkey Frog

Waxy Monkey Frog - South American monkey frogs climb through trees with grasping feet. The waxy monkey frog is unusual in its preference for hot, dry conditions. By recycling water in its kidneys, the frog is able to avoid expelling precious moisture in the form of urine. It also gives itself a rubdown with a waxy secretion to limit water loss through the skin. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

This week we went to the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. Following a wonderful production of Wind in the Willows by Berkshire Theater Festival in their auditorium, we went upstairs to check-out their exhibit, Frogs: A Chorus of Color.

Wow! This is an impressive show that is both educational and visually stunning. Through a dazzling display of photos, frog colors and textures, audible enhancements with an array of calls from different frog species, visitors explore a wide variety of living frogs from all over the world. The exhibit contains 15 different varieties of live frogs, all in self-contained custom habitats that are precisely replicated and include rock ledges, live plants, and waterfalls for the frogs to thrive in.

My seven year old daughter was very interested to see large live frogs, like the African and American Bullfrogs, that are so big they include birds and mice in their diets. And the tiny, cute yellow Poison Dart Frog that has enough poison to kill 10 people!

Studying Frogs

Stunning backlit graphic panels with colorful images of frogs cover the walls, and interactive components invite visitors to activate recorded frog calls, view videos of frogs jumping, swimming or gliding from dizzying heights, spin a zoetrope, and test new-found frog knowledge on subjects from the most basic to the totally bizarre, such as the difference between a toad and a frog. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The museum offers a scavenger hunt as part of the exhibit with their Frog Finder kit that asks questions like, “How do Waxy Monkey Frogs prevent water loss during hot dry weather?,” and “How many Mossy Frog were you able to find in the exhibit?” I found this really compelled kids to study each station and to come away with a full educational experience, learning about a frogs basic biology, ecology and lifecycles.

Kids went from station to station, looking for answers to their Frog Finder Sheets as the Waxy Monkey Frogs hung on branches like little green amphibious looking primates, and the bizarre lichen looking Vietnamese Mossy Frog offered challenges for students to find them in their mossy habitats.

When we left we stopped by the Pittsfield Library to check out books on frogs to read when we got home. This show is truly inspiring to all who enjoy natural history.  The show runs through November 1st, 2009.

To see more photos from our visit to the Berkshire Museum, click here.

Suggested Events 01/24/09-01/30/09

Inaugural Address Viewing at Elmer's in Ashfield, MA

Community members packed the house at Elmer's in Ashfield, MA as they gather together to share and watch Obama's inaugural address on a big screen TV. - (c) Tony(a) Lemos of Ashfield, MA

SUGGEST AN EVENT

If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page.

FEATURED EVENT

There are so many great events happening this weekend, with many great reasons to visit our local museums.

On Saturday, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is hosting a free day with opening day festivities for the exhibit, Race to the Top.  Events include ice carving, dog sledding, lecture on Inuit wisdom and an early evening party. Click here to read more.

Then on Sunday, the Stone Hill Center’s winter wonderland setting at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown will provide the perfect backdrop for free fantastic family fun from 12:30 to 3:30 pm with more dog sledding, snowshoe excursions, snow sculpting and painting, sledding and a campfire complete with hot chocolate.  Click here to read more.

In case you missed it this week, check out the post The Wonderment of Museum to find out how to get the most of your visit to museums.

HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW

Keeth from The Harmonica Pocket co-hosts this week’s episode of HFVS. On Saturday, tune in from 9-10am to 103.3FM (Northampton, MA) or listen on-line at www.valleyfreeradio.org. Then after lunch time, head over to Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA to see them perform live at 1pm in Club B-10 . You’ll be happy you did!

Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Get Directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings and Delays | Family Centers (Ages 0-4) | Facebook

Events Happening in the Hilltowns

Saturday – 01/24/09

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Ben Rudnick Guest DJ Episode on HFVS (01/08/08)

LISTEN NOW

Ben & Presephone at WXOJ in Northampton HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW
Ben Rudnick Guest DJ Episode

with Ben Rudnick & Persephone

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA
Tuesday evening @ 7pm

01/08/08 PLAYLIST

listen now | subscribe to podcast | archived shows | contests

PLAYLIST 

NEW YEAR’S EVE WITH BEN

How lucky we were to have Ben Rudnick in studio to guest DJ an episode of HFVS with Persephone! A great guy with a GREAT band, Ben Rudnick & Friends (BR&F). Persephone & I got to enjoy a New Year’s Eve performance by BR&F at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA (Click here to see photos). The snow was heavy outside the museum after the previous evening’s snowfall, and families filtered in, filling chairs with coats, scarves and mittens. With Ben on guitar, John on mandolin and Arni on bass, these three seasoned performers started singing and playing, giving the audience a real American roots style concert … and the kids couldn’t keep still! Thirteen years of playing together shined through, giving the audience a Class Act performance. But if my gushing over BR&F isn’t convincing enough that this is a band your family must discover, take it from Parent’s Choice and NAPPA who have doled out a number of awards to this finger pickin’ good band. Look for new music by BR&F this year!

THIS WEEK’S CONTEST

This week we’re offering Ben Rudnick music and apparel:

  • We have two copies of Grace’s Bell to give away:
  • along with their award winning t-shirt (Kid’s Pick) submitted to the HFVS T-shirt Review:

Kids Pick Award - Hilltown FamiliesWithout a doubt, Ben Rudnick & Friends design was one of the top three designs amongst our “Official Reviewers,” getting the most positive comments out of all submitted t-shirts. This design pulled off the blend of color and graphic design that appealed most to the kids. “I like the pink in the middle and red in a circle,” commented Antonia (age 5) of Florence, MA. “I like the cool guitar and the three eyes!” shared Jaden (age 5). It is noted that the tie-dye designs can vary, with blue centers and green swirls, or orange centers with yellow swirls … they can all turn out with different patterns and colors, which gives every shirt its own unique aspects.

HOW TO WIN: For your chance to win, simply post us a comment below. We’ll randomly draw TWO winners from everyone who leaves a comment. IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is 01/15/08 @ 7pm (EST).

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Berkshire Museum in 2008

Berkshire Museum to Present Public Programs at Lichtenstein Center, the YMCA, and the Berkshire Community College While Closed for Renovations in January & February

The Berkshire Museum will be closed for construction from January 1 through March 28, 2008. During this time Phase II of the renovation project, which includes the long-awaited installation of a climate control (HVAC) system, will be completed. During the construction period, the Berkshire Museum will present several public programs at other locations in Pittsfield, including an exhibition devoted to the Mohican people at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.

Hilltown Families Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday

African-American Soul Food for Martin Luther Kig, Jr. birthday at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Hilltown families enjoyed African-American soul food during the “I Have a Dream” community celebration at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA, on Monday, January 16th, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

The “I Have A Dream” celebration was kicked off at 1 p.m. with a reading from King’s famous speech, followed by a performance by the popular Pittsfield step dance troupe, Youth Alive. Youth Alive is a troupe of young dancers from Pittsfield, who perform Hip-Hop, African, and Modern dances using their bodies as musical instruments to create a mix of sounds through feet stomping, hand clapping, and body movement.

Making "I Have a Dream" posters. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

A sampling of African-American soul food was offered to visitors following the performance. Children and parents enjoyed free samples of cornbread, collard greens seasoned with pork, and sweet potato pie.

Children sat around tables and on the floors in the upstairs gallery to make “I Have A Dream” posters to be displayed around the gallery for the day or to take and hang at home. Statements like “Use your own mind and listen to yourself,” and “Speak up when you know you should,” were written along with illustrations. Wise words for such young minds!

 

Kids marvel at the Savage Ancient Seas exhibit. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Currently on view at the museum is the exhibit Savage Ancient Seas, which presents the many gigantic forms of life that populated the prehistoric waters at the same time dinosaurs roamed the earth. The gallery is lit in hues of blue and green, creating an underwater ambience.

Exploring undersea world of the late Cretaceous Period at Berkshire Museum. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The exhibition explores the undersea world of the late Cretaceous Period, filled with huge carnivorous marine reptiles with double-hinged jaws and teeth in the middle of their palates, gigantic flesh-eating fish big enough to swallow an adult human whole, and more. With voracious appetites, incredible teeth, and gaping jaws, these creatures are unlike anything known in today’s world. Highlights include an Elasmosaur with a 30-foot long neck, the toothy scowl of a giant carnivorous fish (Xiphactinus), and the jaws of a Megalodon, or giant shark, along with other skeletons, fossils, and life replicas.

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