By Lori Lyn Lirio
UNITED States Congressman Gregorio Kilili Sablan lauded the joint efforts of the government and private agencies in restoring the Northern Mariana Island Museum of History and Culture.
“The museum is as much a tribute to the story of the people of the Marianas as it is to the resilience and determination of those who have led to the museum’s operation. They have kept the museum alive,” Kilili, who represents the people of the Northern Mariana Islands in the US Congress, said during a simple recognition rites.
According to NMI Museum Executive Director Danny Aquino, the museum, which is in a 92-year old former hospital building built during the Japanese administration of the islands, was almost permanently closed due to its deplorable condition brought about by inadequate funding, lack of staff and the ravages of a destructive typhoon.
Nevertheless, Aquino said the museum’s repair and renovation started as soon as he was appointed as its executive director in June 2017. He, however, added that his first move was to secure a budget for the museum.
Noting the historic location of the museum, Kilili said “the structure itself is an artifact of our history. Its concrete, paintless exterior told the story of war and every typhoon that should have shut it down permanently.”
Kilili recalled that he visited the museum shortly after the islands were ravaged by Typhoon Soudelor and saw that the artifacts were damaged, the roof was leaking, there were mold in the walls, the floor is flooded and its plumbing is wrecked that it is almost non existent. He added that the museum was forced to close its doors to visitors indefinitely.
After six months, Kilili said, he nearly did not recognized the site when he revisited it because of the repairs undertaken by Aquino.
“I visited the museum in February to see this progress. I can report the difference between then and now,” he said, adding “visitors to our islands can orient themselves to the three-and-a-half millennia of Marianas history at our museum.”
Kilili observed that a number of government agencies and businesses helped the museum by providing financial and material support.
He said a US$55,000 budget was appropriated by the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, and US$50,000 from the Marianas Visitors Authority while IT&E, Saipan Stevedore, Saipan Shipping, CMS Trucking, Soudelor Corporation, Tropical Gardens, and other local businesses also provided material support.
Help from the staff of the Saipan Mayor’s Office also moved the work along at a faster pace. The mayor’s team assisted museum staff with grounds maintenance, landscaping, and other outdoor work, Kilili added.
Among those who helped and recognized for their efforts were: IT&E, which donated most of the aircon units and one 30-foot container; Saipan Stevedore and CMS Trucking for donating 20-foot container and equipment to transport and set all three containers, Tropical Gardens, Soudelor Corporation; NMI Museum staff Danny Aquino, James Macaranas, Allan Lifoifoi, Wenny Haruo; McDonald’s Saipan, Tan Su Li, Tan Foundation, Mayor Apatang and Mayor’s Office, and Tasi Tours, SNILD and MVA.