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Berkshire Museum seeks expedited trial
Berkshire Museum Facade. Courtesy the Berkshire Museum.

PITTSFIELD, MASS.- After an Appeals Court Judge granted the state Attorney General’s request for a preliminary injunction, lawyers for the Berkshire Museum are asking the Superior Court for an expedited trial to reach a final judgment on the merits of this case “as quickly as possible” to allow the Museum’s Board of Trustees to pursue plans critical to securing the museum’s future.

The temporary injunction was granted Friday (11/10) to continue through December 11 by an Appeals Court Judge – after a Superior Court Judge had denied a similar request. The injunction prevented the museum from selling some of its collection through a Sotheby’s auction scheduled for Monday, November 13th. Lawyers for the Museum are asking the Superior Court to take up these issues in a full trial as soon as possible.

The delay in the sale prompted by the Attorney General’s action “has already put the Museum at risk,” lawyers for the Museum wrote in legal papers filed today. Quoting the decision of the Superior Court Judge denying an injunction, the Museum’s submission continues: “a delay in the auction runs the risk that ‘Sotheby’s will be unable to generate similar consumer interest if and when the injunction is lifted,’” and that this “‘could be disastrous for the Museum.’”

“It is imperative to the Museum’s survival that the AGO’s claims are resolved on the merits through a final judgment as quickly as possible,” the lawyers continued.

Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini, after thorough review of these issues, concluded last week that the Museum’s Board of Trustees “undertook a deliberate and careful review” and the board’s decisions reflected a “high degree of accountability to the individual donors as well as the community. “ He noted “the rights of a charitable board to make thoughtful decisions to steer its charity through troubled times have been vindicated.”

After nearly two years of extensive study, including outreach to the community, the Museum’s Board of Trustees concluded that to meet the Museum’s severe financial challenges and keep open the 114-year-old institution required the New Vision plan. This plan, consistent with the Museum’s mission, aims to create an innovative 21st-century institution that will continue to contribute to the education, culture, and economy of the region. With shrinking public support for education particularly, the Museum is an increasingly important part of the science, art, and history experiences available to children in the region.

The deaccession of 40 pieces of the 40,000 –plus items in the Museum’s collection will help fund a physical renovation, as well as the creation of a new endowment essential to sustaining the Museum into the future.

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