Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fanhokkayan #3: The Museum Desert of the Real

The Guam Museum is open in Hagåtña. Well it is sort of and kind of open. The permanent exhibit text, which I have been helping write for several years now isn't complete, although a temporary exhibit about the history of the Guam Museum has been set up in the meantime. It is strange to have the structure, the physical building finished and mostly ready, but still the museum itself, the story or i hinanao-ta, that it is supposed to represent isn't quite ready. While going through some of my old files on my computer I noted (and was reminded) that Guam didn't have a museum for quite a while. I recall visiting the museum as a young child at the Plaza de Espana and also at Adelup, but for most of my life there has been no national museum on Guam. When my kids were first born, the museum was, interestingly enough just a little annex in the Micronesian Mall that few people even knew existed. The discussion over a museum has been underway for a very long time, although it pains me to think that some of the main people who are responsible for shepherding this project ahead, despite decades of government miasma have passed on.

The two letters below were written more than a decade ago, during the reign of Governor Felix Camacho. They were published in Minagahet Zine around the same time. If you are familiar with anthropology in the Mariana Islands, then the names of the two writers will no doubt be familiar to you.

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The Guam Museum

Legacies are Built on Actions
By Professor Gary Heathcote

By Executive Order, the Governor declared the year 2005 to be Åñon Fino’ Chamorro yan Kottura: Inina, Deskubri yan Setbisio (“The year of the Chamorro Language and Culture: Enlightenment, Discovery and Service”).   What better time than now to start taking serious, informed steps in the direction of creating the kind of museum and cultural center that would do Guam proud?!
Prior to the last election, I polled the Senatorial hopefuls on their positions and ideas about promoting, preserving and educating the public and tourists alike about Guam’s rich and distinctive histories and cultures.   It was heartening to receive replies and read thoughtful published responses on these issues from a number of candidates, including even a few who won.  I was particularly interested in what the candidates had to say about fund raising, since securing property, building infrastructure, designing and building needed facilities, hiring needed museum professionals, scholars, masters of  the arts, cultural traditions and oral history, and training needed para-professional staff will be - of course – quite expensive. 
The most substantive responses came from Senator Larry Kasperbauer and former Speaker Ben Pangelinan.  I learned that Kasperbauer had previously proposed that Japan and the United States jointly build a cultural center and museum for the people of Guam to, in part, “resolve the issue of war-time ill-treatment of our people.”   [Who shot that down?]   Pangelinan informed me that he was working on a proposal to “charter an NGO (non-government organization) to receive donations from state governments such as Spain, Mexico, Japan, etc., to assist in the financing.”   In addition, Pangelinan advocated “setting aside a portion of the Tourist Attraction Fund” to fund the construction of new facilities.    
 
I was hoping that, in the last days of the previous Legislature, a bill might be introduced  and passed that would incorporate some or all of the above ideas into it.  This did not happen.  Is any such bill being developed in the current Legislature, in this Åñon Fino’ Chamorro yan Kottura?   Perhaps naively, I thought that the pre-election pledges and responses from the candidates were a good sign, as my short memory does not recall a recent election (1990 onward) where so many candidates articulated views on preserving and promoting Guam’s cultural and historical heritage.  
 
Further, where does the Governor stand on this subject?   What is his plan?   I hope and trust that the good Governor and Senators who feel passionately about the value and worth of Guam’s cultural and historical legacies will very soon work together (!?!?) and couple actions to their words.   I can think of no better legacy that they could leave to the people of Guam, during their time in office (short of “fixing” GMH, of course).  
 
Gary Heathcote (Assoc. Prof. – Anthropology, University of Guam)
Village of Yona

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Hafa Dai Gary, 

My sincere apology for not making an effort in writing to you since the last time we met here at our museum on Sa’ipan. Although it has taken me this long to write, I have been keeping track on all your correspondences, visions, issues and concerns in preserving, protecting and promoting the history, language and culture of the Chamorros of Guam, and most especially, the need to re-establish the Guam Museum as stated in Chapter 83 of Guam Museum Act of 1992’ . Because of this matter, I thought maybe it is time for me to share my personal viewpoints coming from an indigenous perspective from up north.
However, before I begin airing my concerns and thoughts, I would like to share a brief historical summary of the CNMI Museum History and Culture for all my Chamorro brothers and sisters in Guam, visitors, general public and interested readers so that they have a glimpse on how our museum became about and where its future progress and hoped that by doing this, it will open the eyes and minds of Guam’s elected leaders to see and feel the importance in re-establishing the Guam Museum ‘as the official repository and custodian of historical artifacts in Guam,’ 

The CNMI Museum of History and Culture was officially created in 1996 upon signing PL 10-5 by the Commonwealth Legislature. Two years later on November 4, 1998, the museum opened its doors to the general public and visitors alike at the renovated "Old Japanese Hospital". This hospital was designed by Yasaburo Yamashita and built in the early 20’s and in 1926, it finally opened its doors for the general public. Funding for the construction of the hospital was made possible by Mr. Haruji Matsue, the King of Sugar, during the Japanese administrations and considered the most modern and up-to-date facility in all of Micronesia at that time. 

The present museum houses the administration and staff offices, a small gift shop, a workroom, staff and visitors restrooms and a permanent and rotating galleries in compliance with the American Disabilities Act. As the Museum’s Exhibit Curator, part of my duties and responsibilities is to conduct research on specific topic for upcoming exhibits as well as to design and construct display panels, glass casings, props, pedestals and other exhibit installations for the rotating gallery. While the rotating galleries changes every three months, the permanent collections are displayed in an historical chronology commencing from ancient Chamorro civilization or pre-contact period through the present day Commonwealth era. Displayed items at the museum ranges from two to three-dimensional objects from every period such as actual artifacts as well as replicated tools and other implements including prints from the Freycinet collections of 1819. Other articles on display included vari ous black and white photographs, various handmade crafts made during the Internment Camp period, the church bell of 1898 in honor of Luis de Medina, the bishop’s chair photographed in 1927 and amount other items are copies of the official Covenant documents, miniature and one-fourth models and other prototypes and many pre-war and war relics and other objects still stored at the collection curator’s office which we can’t display due to lack of space at the museum’s exhibit rooms. 

One of the special feature displayed recently is the 60th Commemoration Anniversary of WWII/The Battle for Saipan and Tinian which ended in August 2004. A number of WWII veterans were on island who participated on the 60th commemoration and one veteran everyone wants to meet was the Enola Gay pilot, Paul Tibbet. Also the museum is now featuring the Japanese era, entitled, "The Japanese Administration in the Northern Marianas: The Birth of the Industrial Period (1914-1941)" which is now part of the exhibit’s permanent display for Japanese tourist to learn more about their history outside Japan at that time. At the revolving gallery, the museum is now featuring the 20th Espicopal Anniversary in honor of Bishop Tomas Camacho and The Influence of Catholicism in the Marianas since the erection of the cross in Guam and establishment of the Spanish Mission in 1668 through the German and Japanese period and up to the pre sent era of all the Catholic churches in the CNMI.

We are proud to mention that the museum’s priceless treasures include various gold artifacts, Spanish silver and Chinese bronze coins, pottery vessels, canon balls and all sort of metal fragments recovered from Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, a Spanish galleon that shipwrecked in 1638 off the southern coast of Sa’ipan and the prints from the 1819 French expedition to the Marianas by Louis Claude de Saules, Baron de Freycinet that our government purchased and the third irreplaceable historical piece is the Waherak Mailar, a traditional ocean-going Carolinian outrigger originally built on Puluwat Atoll in the 60’s. Another resent donation is Mr. Haruji Matsue’s personal album given to the CNMI people by Matsue’s only surviving son that we have yet to translate every page once we have the funding. Furthermore, as the museum continues to grow, we have yet to catalogue a vast collection of artifacts stored at the Collection Facili ty managed by Dr. Barbara Moir that leaves us no choice but to find other ways to expand the museum and that is exactly what is happening as I write this letter. 


Since its inception, the museum has grown to the point that our government is presently on the drawing board to construct a 3-storey, $10M modern facility right across Duty Free Shoppers or between Hafa Dai and Dai Ichi Hotels. Not only that this location is at a beach front property, it is the most ideal venue since the museum will be erected at a nearby ancient Chamorro burial site and a walking distance for all our visitors at all corners. Negotiation is still ongoing that it will also house the Historic Preservation Office, the CNMI Archives, the Council for Arts and Culture and the Humanities Council all under one roof. Once the new museum is completed and open its doors, the present museum will remain as is but a pre-war era of the Japanese era while the American Memorial Park under the National Park Service will soon open its ‘Visitors Center’ sometime in June of this year. This Visitor Center will house its administration offices, gift shop, indoor amphitheater asi de from its present outdoor amphitheater and the permanent exhibit will feature a small segment of the pre-war under the Japanese administration as part of its introduction leading to WWII/the Battle for Saipan and Tinian and ending in the Military Administration. Special features will include the Navaho Code Talkers, the 24th Regiment Infantry, the Anatahan Odyssey and other war related topics. 

Because of the importance of protecting, preserving and promoting the indigenous culture and history, the CNMI government has taken serious steps in making sure the museum(s) played an important part in our cultural heritage and history for the indigenous people and most especially for our visitors coming to the islands to learn our past as well as theirs. It’s very sad that Guam had at one time a museum called Guam Museum established back in the 50’s, if not mistaken, and I am very dishearten that up till this point in time, leaders of Guam has not taken any serious steps in implementing Guam Museum Act of 1992 which is mandated … "to promote increased understanding of Guam's geology, biota, prehistory, and contemporary culture… and that the Guam Museum shall act as the official repository and custodian of historical artifacts of Guam and to acquire, preserve, and make available for public viewing artifacts relating to the cultural and natural heritage of Guam and to fost er research on the artifacts in its inventory and shall disseminate the results of its research to the public through such media as public exhibitions, demonstrations, lectures and other public programs, and publications…" 

I read the 52 pages report, REPORT OF THE MUSEUM COMMISSION of December 2, 1991, and it is very sad nothing has been done up till this point in time. Hope something must be done and quickly to address this issue once and for all. 

Before I forget, about 2 years ago, an American lady who presently resides in Guam visited our museum and very impressed about our accomplishment. But you would not guess what she told me. She stated that it happened one day during lunch in the parking lot outside her workplace when a former Guam Museum staff approached her if she is interested in buying artifacts, prints, photos and other items in HER car trunk! She was speechless and could not believe what she was seeing! She declined to purchase and this calls for an investigation. 

Gary, you could share my summary and thoughts to the people of Guam. 

Noel Quitugua

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