[Pittsfield, Mass.] – Berkshire Museum has been awarded $176,750 from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund for the installation of a public elevator and interior ramp compliant with current accessibility codes.

The award to the Berkshire Museum is part of a package of more than $5 million in grants awarded by the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to support building projects for nonprofit arts, history, and science organizations across the Commonwealth. The awards were announced earlier this week by Governor Deval Patrick. Grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF) will support repairs, improvements, and expansions for 56 cultural organizations. The organizations funded in this round expect to invest $414 million in their projects. The grants must be matched with funds from private and/or other public sources.

“We are thankful that our governor and legislators understand how cultural institutions impact quality of life including job creation and visitor attraction. The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund is a smart investment,” says Van Shields, Berkshire Museum executive director.

The facilities improvement project at Berkshire Museum has two major components. The first is the installation of a new public elevator that will be compliant with current accessibility codes and will provide unassisted access to four floor levels. Currently, the Museum elevator must be operated by a staff member; the new elevator will be operated by Museum visitors. The updated elevator will be wider for improved wheelchair accessibility, and in addition, the new elevator will be energy efficient and will contribute to improved indoor air quality through reduced CO2 emissions and the use of new “green” lubricants. It also will require less equipment maintenance. Installation of the new elevator will require alterations to one staircase and one of the entrances to the Museum’s Theater.

The second component is the creation of an interior ramp on the aquarium level of the Museum. Currently, the “touch tank” exhibit is reachable via several steps; a new ramp will be built that will offer easy access to the exhibition. Ramp construction will include some reorganization of the aquarium area.

These projects will bring Berkshire Museum’s historic 1903 building up to current accessibility standards compliant with the American with Disabilities Act.

“Although all the floors of the Museum are accessible now, users must rely on our elevator operators and there is no acceptable access to a portion of our aquarium space. This award will usher in the final steps in our efforts to make Berkshire Museum easily accessible for all the members of our community,” adds Shields. “We offer wonderful educational opportunities for visitors of all ages and all abilities, and we look forward to improving our visitors’ experience.”

Berkshire Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org or call 413.443.7171. Museum admission is $13 for adults and $6 for children. Members and children aged three and under enjoy free admission.

The Museum is located at 39 South Street on Route 7 in downtown Pittsfield. Berkshire Museum is the first public museum in Berkshire County, established by Zenas Crane in 1903 as a museum of art and natural history. Little Cinema is open year-round. Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, Aquarium, Alexander Calder Gallery, and other exhibits are ongoing.