Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 18 Jan 2018 12am

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    Wednesday, January 17, 2018-10:01:40A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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BC’s Tales of the Pacific: Grand re-opening of NMI Museum

I READ recently in  Marianas Variety that the board of governors of the NMI Museum is hoping to open its doors early next year.  Hurray!  This is wonderful news and the entire island community should rejoice.

First, islanders themselves will benefit directly because the museum is a first-class institution that preserves and celebrates their culture. Second, it is a magnet to attract tourists which increases the amount of money flowing onto the island.

But the article seemed less about the eager anticipation of re-opening and more about the struggles still ahead. The board is having trouble securing a curator, technicians and guides, staff who not only understand how to run a museum and take care of precious artifacts but people who are passionate about the collections and whose passion will rub off on visitors. Without the proper personnel in place, gradual decline will occur again. I have some thoughts. 

First, pull up my previous columns on the subject, one entitled “NMI Museum Should be Saved” and the other, “How to Save the NMI Museum.” I raised several questions and made some suggestions on how to make the museum a success. For example, I strongly encouraged that the museum should partner with the large resort hotels on the island. Tapping into those barrels should go a long way in keeping the facility, and the staff, state of the art. The resorts have an interest in maintaining a nice museum as it gives tourists more places to visit. It’s time to scratch each other’s backs.

Second, choose wisely. Recall that last year that Northern Marianas College re-hired someone it fired only a few years before for egregious violations of ethics, standards and the law. It will take years for NMC to live that down. Avoid the mistake by not hiring someone based on political or family connections. If someone on island is both qualified and passionate, fine, hire them. But don’t settle for someone who won’t take the museum where you and I want it to go.

Also, build in some kind of guarantee that the new curator won’t get pushed out a year from now for some petty reason. Take a lesson from the Board of Education. To get a serious leader you will have to offer a competitive salary, and offer a multiple-year guarantee. Personally, I would not take the job without a written contract of five years minimum, and I would question the sincerity of anyone who took less. If I am going to devote my life to delivering this baby, I at least want to see it through to grade school, preferably college.

Finally, if you can’t find a local to fit the bill, find someone who understands the islands, someone who has been there, knows Chamorros, Carolinians and others, and cares about their future as well as their past. A person who can raise funds is nice but a true lover of history is better. Visit a number of museums and ask yourself: what is the difference between the ones you thought were alright and the ones you thought were great? Chances are, it was the people behind the collections.

Board of Governors, you stand at the threshold of a big decision. Because I love the museum as much as you do, I hope you make a wise choice. I would love to hear from you and welcome the chance to talk about this further.

BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He travels the Pacific but currently resides on the mainland U.S.