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What to See at Berkshire Museums, from Art to Early New England Life

Posted on February 07, 2023Written by Nancy Macy on behalf of 1Berkshire
Updated on May 25, 2023

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Exploring a museum is one of the essential things to do in the Berkshires. Our guide helps you plan your visit.

Museums in the Berkshires are must-see destinations for culture and history lovers. From New England history to Yiddish literature, contemporary art to American and European masterpieces, visiting a Berkshire museum is an exciting cultural activity for all ages and interests. 

In the northern Berkshires? The Williams College Museum of Art and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown are both world-class art museums and distinguished research libraries. Each museum holds extensive collections of paintings, decorative arts, photography, sculpture, drawings, and prints, spanning centuries of art history. Special exhibitions opening at the Clark in 2023 feature the works of Maine-based artist Elizabeth Attenbury and artist/architect Paul Goesch. At Williams, the exhibition Across Shared Waters: Contemporary Artists in Dialogue with Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection is on view through July 23.

Nearby, in North Adams, the former industrial mill complex housing the MASS MoCA is one of the largest visual art museums of its kind in the United States. Sol Lewitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective (on view through 2042) occupies three stories of its own. Whether you enjoy 2D, 3D, or sound installations, you’ll find it here. Exhibitions opening in early 2023 feature works by Daniel Giordano and Carrie Schneider. 

Another great stop, especially for families, is The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. While the museum houses Carle’s original illustrations and collages for such beloved children’s classics as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it is also home to delightful works by other well-known picture-book authors and artists. Allow for time in the reading room and bookstore, and be sure to check for story times and workshops happening during your visit.

 Interested in history? Visit the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, or tour historic house properties of The Trustees (Ashley House in Sheffield and The Mission House in Stockbridge). Hop on the Hoosac Valley Train run by Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum for a thrilling round-trip ride in a vintage rail car (Lenox Rail Museum reopens after Memorial Day). Or experience Colonial American life at Historic Deerfield, an outdoor museum with authentic 18th– and 19th-century houses on their original sites and exhibits of early New England furniture and decorative arts that tell the stories of the people who lived there.

More into Yiddish heritage and modern Jewish culture? The Yiddish Book Center is for you. Visit the bookstore on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst or search more than 11,000 titles available online from the Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library.

At just two hours from New York City and Boston, the Berkshires is an easy day trip or weekend getaway. Find more ideas for places to stay and things to do in the Berkshires with our helpful planning resources guide. And be sure to follow us on Instagram and TikTok, too!

Photo Credits: Williams College Museum of Art; MASS MoCA

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