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Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Comparative approaches in historic preservation usually involve two or more different buildings. The old Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts allows for a comparative approach with the same building, but in two different eras: one where the clamor to replace the library building came close to resulting in its destruction (1960s); the other, 35 years later, where the question of the building’s survival was never in doubt, never even raised (2000s). From its earliest days, serious design and workmanship flaws have plagued the structural integrity of the monumental Victorian Gothic building that stands in the center of Pittsfield. Its grand space proved inadequate for the functioning of a public library. Yet it continues to survive, and in 2014, another major preservation project is underway to address the bulging of the masonry on the front façade. A narrative of the history of this building reveals broader trends in public attitudes towards the preservation of our cultural heritage, and insights into the contributing elements that provide justification for preservation as well as into the role of the public historian in connecting preservation with the community.


First Advisor

Mark T. Hamin

Second Advisor

Marla R. Miller