Blending its many art, natural science and history collections into one dynamic exhibit is one of the Berkshire Museum’s strengths. This year, the team at the museum has taken on a particularly hairy challenge: curating everything from paintings to pelts into ArtZoo: Galleries Gone Wild, and families are going to love it!
ArtZoo allows visitors to wind through several connected galleries to view different animal groups together, as they would in a real zoo. But it’s a refuge for more than just creatures; at every turn, there’s a visual buffet of sculpture, paintings, photographs, preserved specimens, and more, with an interactive activity in each area to pique curiosity at all ages.
The Big Cats and Wild Dogs come first, with a wide selection of vintage prints, pieces from the museum’s natural history collection, and more surrounding the room. Footage of an actual ambush in the wild – an award-winning video by wildlife photographer Sally Eagle — is projected on the far wall.
A tall giraffe’s head (and neck), actually a bronze bust by French sculptor Quentin Garel, greets the crowd as it moves toward ‘Mega Mammals,’ and there’s an opportunity to try some Animal Yoga in between the primates and bears. Mats and pictures are on hand to guide stretches like what a gorilla, cow, dog, or even a pigeon might in the wild!
There’s space for a break at the comfy couch in the Family Area to play some animal-inspired games, or tell some of the ArtZoo Riddles on the ZooQuest Map, then it’s on to the birds. An entire room is filled with aquatic, tree, ground-feeding, and birds of prey in every stance imaginable – even an owl listening to an iPhone in a contemporary sketch by illustrator Jada Fitch.
Rows of binoculars are hung to allow for some virtual bird-spotting (there are 50 taxidermy birds perched in faux trees around the room), and a giant nest is tucked among the artwork to show how birds make twigs, sticks, and moss comfortable for themselves and their eggs.
Lest we nest too long…it’s off to the final stop, where the fish, amphibians, and reptiles swim and slither. The king of collection is a three-month-old monitor lizard in his own, custom-made habitat, complete with a sunning rock and a swimming pool. He’s flanked by an 11-foot-long yellow Anaconda skin on one side and a flat screen on the other, playing underwater footage of cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, and octopi – oh, my).
At the exit, it’s time for one last check of the ZooQuest Map and its 12 questions. All of the answers, whether related to animals, art, or culture, can be found in the ArtZoo galleries…
Remember which breakfast cereal has a toucan as a mascot? Hint: Head back to the Aviary to double-check your answer!
ArtZoo is on display now until May 1 at the Berkshire Museum. Admission is $6 for children, $13 for adults, and free for members & children under three. Visitors may also present their EBT card and photo ID for free admission for two adults and two children during regular business hours.