Home » 2002 Winter Trip to Stowe, Vermont

Clark Art Institute / Williams College Museum of Art, MA

Wednesday, February 20, 2002 - 7:00am by Lolo
145 miles and 3 hours from our last stop


Every one of our winter trips brings us through the picturesque college town of Williamstown, in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, and every year we stop for a dose of culture at the Clark Art Institute. Rather than complaining about being dragged through an art museum each year instead of spending the day skiing, the boys have really come to love this stop, and each year as they get older, they seem to better appreciate what they are seeing. This time their visit to the museum was even further enhanced by their picking up a booklet that required them to find various pieces of art around the museum and to answer questions about them. They really got into it.

After a very delightful few hours at the Clark, it was such a nice warm day that we decided to walk over to the nearby campus of Williams College. I remember joking with Herb about checking out the college in case the boys wanted to go there someday. The boys were only 10 and 12 at the time, and I think I can honestly say that at this point of motherhood, I couldn’t even imagine the possibility of them growing up and going off to college.

If I had a chance to go to college all over again, this would be the place. Everything about it was perfect! The college even had its own art museum, which is considered to be one of the best college art museums in the country. Surprisingly, the boys were willing to visit a second art museum in the same day.

Their (and my) favorite exhibit was a room filled with various classroom objects—a desk, books, blackboard, a globe, dunce cap, and a sculpture of a very large man sitting on the end of a log. A log?? Only later did I learn the significance of the log. According to Williams College history, Mark Hopkins, who was a Williams professor from 1830 to 1887, was the epitome of a professor. In fact, one of his students, President James Garfield, said of his teaching: “The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other." Hence, the log’s prime position in this room and the very large sculpture of a man (I presume Mark Hopkins) on the end of it. Meanwhile, in the background, a recording of a professor’s voice delivering a math lecture droned on accompanied by the sound of his writing on a blackboard. The exhibit was interactive as well. You could sit at the other end of the log and look up at the rather intimidating figure of Mark Hopkins, or you could pick up a piece of chalk and add your own words of wisdom to the blackboard. Tom, who was 10 at the time, wrote, “Never use oatmeal as a sports drink. I’m so proud. Perhaps we should look at a few more colleges.

P.S. as of 2007 - Warning to Parents! Kids actually do grow up and eventually go off to college. Andrew will be starting as a freshman at Williams College in the fall of 2007.

P.P.S as of 2009 - Tommy will be joining Andrew this fall as a freshman at Williams. Maybe this stop had a greater impact than we could ever have anticipated.


At the junction of Route 2 and Route 7, in the very northwest corner of Massachusetts, lies the picturesque college and culture town of Williamstown. Williamstown was first settled in 1749 and was originally named West Hoosac. In 1793, a leading resident named Ephraim Williams was killed in the French and Indian War, and left a significant amount of money to the town if they renamed it "Williamstown" and started a free school for the local farm boys. Today that school is Williams College, the top liberal arts school in the country. Williamstown is also home to the Clark Art Institute and the Tony-award winning Williamstown Theater Festival, which runs every July and August.

Clark Art Institute

The Clark Art Institute, nestled in the Berkshires of northwestern Massachusetts, is both an art museum as well as the home of one of the finest art reference libraries in the world (both of which are open to the public). Its collections include European and American painting and sculpture, master prints and drawings, Flemish and Dutch masterworks from the 17th and 18th centuries, European and American photography from the 1840s through the 1910s, English silver and porcelain, and an extraordinary collection of French Impressionist paintings.

The museum was established in the early 1950s when Robert Sterling and Francine Clary Clark were looking for a home for their art collection. Because of the threat of nuclear attack on major U.S. cities during the Cold War, the Clarks wanted to choose a remote location to house their valuable collection. This fear plus the close ties that existed between the Clark family and Williams College caused them to choose the small town of Williamstown in the Berkshires as the location for their museum. The museum was built in walking distance to the college.

Williams College Museum of Art

In addition to the nearby Clark Art Institute is the nearby Williams College Museum of Art. The museum is one of the best college cart museums in the country, with changing exhibitions as well as a permanent collection of 12,000 works spanning the history of art. The collection emphasizes modern and contemporary art, American art from the late 18th century to the present, and the art of world cultures. Admission to the museum is free.