Berkshire Museum Nixes Expansion

Kamm Collection of Teapots Not Headed to Pittsfield

By: - Oct 28, 2010

Kamm Kamm Kamm Kamm

Pittsfield gallerist, Leslie Ferrin, hosted a reception for the collectors Sonny and Gloria Kamm several weeks ago. As we reported, on October 9, the California based couple were on the road scouting potential locations and partners to create a museum for their 30 year accumulation of some 10,000 vintage, and contemporary tea pots, and related ephemera.

The Berkshire Museum was on a short list of finalists to form a partnership with the collectors. The prospect was for developing a new museum annex on the campus of the now closed St. Theresa’s Church in the heart of Pittsfield.

In the past few years the Berkshire Museum has undergone internal renovation and climate control installation. With its tight footprint there is no space for further expansion. A partnership with the Kamms represented great potential for much needed storage, exhibition, and administrative space.

As Gloria told me during the reception at Ferrin Gallery “It is all a matter of money.” As well as the availability and commitment to the church campus. She disclosed that the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton was offering to build their museum on its site. One sensed that Pittsfield and Brockton were finalists for the Kamm’s museum.

This morning we were among those who received an e mail update from Leslie Ferrin.

“Hi there – “ Ferrin wrote “I wanted to thank you all for your support during the recent visits by Sonny & Gloria Kamm as they toured our region in search of a home for their collection.  It was great seeing so many of our colleagues come out for "Meet the Kamm's" and earlier this summer on their tour of the region.  Last week Stuart Chase sent out a brief note that the museum board voted against moving forward as a partnership.  Without a partnership with a larger institution, it is unlikely that the Kamm's would move on their own to create a "stand alone" museum at St. Theresa’s Church in Pittsfield. 

”In speaking with The Kamms yesterday they thanked our community and expressed their interest in continuing to explore the idea of using St. Theresa's Church in partnership with other institutions in our area - or - like the BSO and Tanglewood - with another institution in the state of MA.  Regardless of the outcome of the partnership concept with the Berkshire Museum, we remain optimistic that as the process continues The Kamms will be back in the state soon and will keep you informed if and when they focus in on a site in the Berkshires.”

Stuart Chase, the director of the Berkshire Museum, in response to a request for information, sent the following e mail message.

“The Kamms’ collection is astounding, and we’re sure it will find a good home as the centerpiece of a permanent display or its own museum. Our feasibility study, however, made clear that it would be an undertaking that requires—and deserves—its own dedicated staff and organizational structure, plus a significant fundraising effort, all of which would go beyond what the Museum should muster as an adjunct project. We’re in the midst of Phase 3A of our ongoing facility improvements at the Museum, and directing more of our efforts towards curating home-grown exhibitions that can not only be hits at Berkshire Museum but which can then travel the country, earning additional revenues. The Kamms’ project is a viable one, and ripe with potential, but it became clear that it would divert our attention from our own mission to too great an extent. We believe this museum based on the Kamms’ collection will indeed become a reality one day, perhaps here in the Berkshires. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Kamms and the permanent home of their collection, in whatever form it takes. “

With Pittsfield withdrawing from being involved it strengthens the bid of the Fuller Craft Museum as a potential site and partner. Given the focus of the museum it would enhance their program and viability as a destination for visitors.

A spokesperson for the museum got back to us with a comment that negotiations with the Kamms are ongoing but "There is nothing new to report at this time."