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Museums Off The Beaten Path

Posted on February 26, 2024Written by Nancy Macy on behalf of 1Berkshire
Updated on April 26, 2024

Bidwell House Museum - an old white farmhouse on a green lawn surrounded by trees. A pink flowering bush is in the foreground.

Unique collections from mid-century art to Yiddish culture

Museums in the Berkshires attract lovers of art, architecture, history, and mid-century design. Must-see lists for fine art and historic houses often include MASS MoCA, the Clark, and Naumkeag. But the Berkshires is also home to hidden gems (some seasonal) offering unique experiences you don’t want to miss. Here’s our short list of attractions that are off the beaten path and well worth a visit!

Did you know the Berkshires is home to papermaking mills dating back to the American Revolution? The Crane mill in Dalton holds a place in that history as the maker of paper used in US currency. While the original Crane museum is currently closed (stay tuned!), you can learn about the art and science of making paper for the paper arts and for banknotes through the Crane Museum of Papermaking online archives.

For more local history, visit the beautifully preserved houses on the Berkshire 18th Century Trail such as the Bidwell House in Monterey – Bidwell’s grounds are open year-round and house tours run from Memorial Day to October. Or explore sites on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail celebrating W.E.B. Du Bois, Elizabeth ‘Mum Bett’ Freeman, and others who played pivotal roles in history here and abroad. Choose from 6 trail guides to help you find where to start your historic adventure.

Three people - and older woman, a younger woman, and an older man - stand before a wall exhibit at the Yiddish Book Center.

Interested in Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture? Visit the Yiddish Book Center on the Hampshire College campus in Amherst. Located a hop, skip, and a jump from the Berkshires, the Center is home to educational programs, lectures, and exhibitions that celebrate Yiddish language and culture through personal stories, objects, and books. If you can’t get there in person, visit the website for virtual tours, talks, and their online bookstore.

Contemporary art lovers should plan a stop at the Berkshire Art Museum (opens for the season in June) located near MASS MoCA in North Adams. The museum’s permanent collection features artwork by Eric Rudd, with rotating exhibitions in the galleries. Plan an overnight stay at Hotel Downstreet or The Porches and relax with cocktails and dinner at The Airport Rooms at TOURISTS for a memorable weekend getaway. 

Frelinghuysen Morris House and Studio. This shot shows the interior, a room full of paintings, an easel, chairs, desk, and checkered floor.

For mid-century art and design, visit Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio in Lenox. The 46-acre estate off Hawthorne Road near Tanglewood was home to American Abstract artists George L.K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen and their collection of American and European Cubist Art. Beginning in late June through mid-October, take a tour of the house, walk the grounds, or take a painting workshop. Cafes in nearby Lenox and Stockbridge are perfect spots for people watching or refueling for the next stop on your tour of Berkshire museums!

Explore more museums, historic sites, and gardens here. Find places to eat and drink here.

Funded, in part, by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

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