TWO years after it was shutdown, the Northern Mariana Islands Museum of History and Culture is close to reopening it again as the repair of the facility is 75 percent complete.
Thus quipped the museum’s Executive Director Danny Aquino. He also disclosed that the immediate problems that existed prior to his arrival have already been fixed.
Problems such as roof leaks causing flooding, termite buildup, electrical issues causing poor lighting conditions, lack of functioning air-conditioning systems, lack of running water and functioning toilets resulting poor sanitary conditions, decrepit appearance of the museum and the lack of storage facility have been completed or near completion.
“When I initially came on board, the museum was in a deplorable state. There was only two staff which consisted of James Macaranas and myself. It was an overwhelming situation that would require an extreme amount of stress, patience, long hours and support,” he said.
The repair works, according to Aquino, started in June.
“We worked for months, seven days a week to restore the museum.”
CNMI Museum received a total of $105,000 from the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation (SNILD) and from Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) purposely intended for the repair of the building.
Many of the problems at the facility have been existed for nine years, Aquino said.
“You cannot even call it a museum; it was a 3,000-square-foot storage that was leaking. It is looking a museum now,” he said.
A media tour was held on Tuesday. No more leaks or internal flooding in the museum anymore.
The museum was divided in different eras. Mementos in German time and Japanese time and event Chamorro and Carolinian were separated in different areas.
The toilets were also repaired as they replaced the old toilet bowls and urinals with new ones.
“The repairs of the museum roofs, new water lines, bathroom renovations were made possible from a generous grant from the Marianas Visitors Authority and the supplemental money from the Legislature,” he said, adding IT&E donated 12 air- conditioning systems.
“To save money on displays cases and stands, we worked with what we had by staining and varnishing all existing and functioning display cases and display stands. These display cases were from a donation of T Galleria prior to my employment,” he said.
Aquino said they are almost done with the repair and is now working on updating the wall displays with large format vinyl and canvases.
“We recently had one large 4ft. x 8ft. vinyl installed and another 8ft. x 8ft vinyl installed for Georg Fritz and the German Era,” he said.
“We are confident and hopeful that the residents and tourist will enjoy and like what we have done and where we are heading with regards to the repairs, renovations and future of the museum,” Aquino added.
No schedule on soft opening of the 19-year-old museum yet, but any individual or group who are interested may contact the museum office at 664-2160 for information.
“I am confident that we are in the right path to recovery and a stage where the CNMI residents can be proud of their museum. The individuals who have visited the museum in the past will be tremendously shocked with the transformation. To see the surprised faces and positive feedback of individuals says it all. All the hard work was worth it,” he said.
Aquino said the museum is currently needing a curator and four tour guides.
“Chairman John Gonzales and our museum board of governors have been equally supportive and surprised and pleased with the transformation of the museum. I want to thank them for approving my contract extension and salary increase of $50,000 which is the salary that was given to my predecessors,” he said.
Aquino thanked the Legislature members, including Speaker Ralph Demapan, chairman for the SNIL Delegation John Paul Sablan, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Angel Demapan, MVA Managing Director Chris Concepcion for the financial support.
He also thanked IT&E, Saipan Shipping, Saipan Stevedore, and CMS Trucking for their generous support in form of in-kind contributions.
“There are also many partners who worked relentlessly behind the scenes to get the museum where it is now and I would like to thank them for everything they have done to help us. I would like to express thanks to the Secretary of Finance, her staff, the Treasury office and her staff for being accommodating and processing our vendor payments in a timely manner,” he said.
He also extended his appreciation to the Procurement Director Herman Sablan and his staff for processing the purchase requisitions and purchase orders and “for identifying that the museum was in an emergency state when I entered.”
He said Mayor David Apatang and his operations crew have been a big help.
“They have been supportive in assisting the museum with the initial ground maintenance, water blasting and debris removal. The Office of the Mayor laid out much of the initial ground work of what had to be done in the museum.”
“I owe my staff a debt of gratitude for their hard work, sacrifices and commitment to getting every task assigned to them completed. They worked tirelessly trying to get the museum opened. We have worked extra hours, extra days and holidays to get the work and progress continuing,” he added.
The storage facility has also been addressed as two 20-foot containers from Saipan Shipping and IT&E, which costs of USD$2,200 per container, were donated to them. Saipan Stevedore and CMS trucking also donated transportation and the crane to move the containers inside the museum fence.
“IT&E through its CEO, General Manager, it’s management team and the Delgado family have been very supportive and instrumental with assisting the museum. We discussed a fundraising program through a scratch card that is still being worked on to hopefully provide a means of generating revenue. I want to thank the public for the patience and support they have given. We prepared this venue of communication to showcase the state of the museum before I entered and after repairs and renovations were completed,” he said.
“I would like to thank the Governor first and foremost for having the confidence in me and appointing me to this position. The Governor has been on top of the developments and strides we made and is very supportive in addressing any immediate needs or concerns that we present to him,” Aquino said.