Donation allows New England Holocaust Institute and Museum to remain open next 6 months
NORTH ADAMS -- Thanks to a last-minute donation, the New England Holocaust Institute and Museum will remain open for at least another six months.
The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation has offered to pay $3,000, or six months of rent, for the museum at 41 Eagle Street, its operator Darrell English announced Monday.
English will use the additional time to formulate a viable, long-term plan to keep his museum -- which showcases rare artifacts from the Holocaust and World War II -- open, he said, possibly in a different location.
"This is going to give me breathing room," said English. "We want to grow, we want to expand, that's always been the plan."
English had said last month that he would no longer be able to afford to keep the museum open after his wife retires at the end of June.
"It's kid of an amazing thing," English said about the grant. "I was totally taken aback ... I had no words other than to say ‘thank you.'"
English said he received calls from across the country after a story detailing the museum's impending closure was published in the Eagle last month and picked up by the Associated Press. But it was through a friend of a friend that English was put in touch with Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, a national nonprofit organization.
After describing the plight of his museum to Klinger Monday morning, English said Klinger told him, "Well, give me the name of your landlord," and offered the $3,000 grant.
The grant aligns with the mission of the society to "reflect on the Jewish American experience," said Klinger, "He has a treasure that needs to be kept alive."
The funding should allow English to work with possible financial backers to create a long-term plan for museum.
"To be forced to make a quick arbitrary decision ... that would probably be a disservice to everybody," Klinger said. "I didn't want him to make a precipitous decision."
English will now spend the next six months trying to work with supporters -- who have called from as far away as the state of Florida since his story was published -- to find the right space.
"The easiest part is a building. The hardest part is what to put inside it. And I've already done that," English said.
He said help and expertise in growing the museum will be welcomed.
"I am not a museum person. I am not a computer person. I am not a fundraiser. I am the historian collector, basically the Indiana Jones guy, who goes out and finds these rare pieces of history. ... I'm that person," English said.
Those rare pieces of history are why people like Klinger are willing to invest.
"We're not dealing with just remembering what happened to Jews, we're trying to remember what happened to humanity," Klinger said.
The museum explores "the origins of hatred and bigotry," and Klinger warned "not wanting to know how we get into these messes only guarantees that we do it again."
After recent press, it appears many others share Klinger's sentiments. One couple visiting the museum recently proposed English move it to Brockton, he said.
"There has been a steady stream of people coming in and saying, ‘We never knew you were here' and ask, ‘What can we do to help you,' " English said. "It has just been tremendous, the outpouring of support."
Though much of the museum's future remains uncertain, English said he would like to keep it in the region.
"If I lived on the moon, it'd be on the moon, but I'm here," he said.
In the meantime, the museum will continue its mission of telling the full story of the Holocaust and World War II, from the end of World War I on, according to English.
"When people are not willing to look into the darkness, and they only want to look through the front door slightly, you're not going to see what's really going on," said Klinger.
To reach Adam Shanks:
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