Guam Museum/Guam and Chamorro Education Facility (review)
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Reviewed by
Guam Museum/Guam and Chamorro Education Facility, Hagåtña, Guåhan (Guam). Temporarily opened 26 May–2 June 2016.

On 26 May 2016, the Guam and Chamorro Education Facility, better known as the Guam Museum, temporarily opened its doors to the public. This preview was the result of over eighty years of work to bring a permanent museum space to life. Since the 1930s, the United States has collected Chamorro cultural and historical objects, which the US Navy largely maintained, and the American Legion Mid-Pacific Post 1 founded the original Guam Museum in 1933. Three years later, an executive order by the governor of Guam established the Guam Museum as a government institution, and it was given a small building. The violence and destruction of World War II greatly damaged the collection, so postwar years were used to help regrow the collection while emphasizing the protection of historic structures throughout the island and overseeing research on Guam’s history. Although temporary exhibitions have been showcased throughout the island in community spaces, and advocates such as the late Senator Tony Palomo pushed for a permanent museum space, it was not until Guam was chosen to host the 2016 Festival of the Pacific Arts (FestPac) that funding was allocated to begin building the museum. Groundbreaking took place in 2013 for the budgeted $27 million complex.

The Guam Museum was intended to be ready by the start of the festival; however, issues with construction and severe weather resulted in the postponement of its grand opening till November 2016. Despite its incomplete state, the Guam Museum acted as a functional, multidimensional site for FestPac.

Located in the heart of Hagåtña, in Skinner Plaza, the Guam Museum commands attention with its eye-catching archway, evoking an åcho’ atupat, or sling stone, as well as the Great Seal of Guam. The sling stone is a signature weapon of ancient Chamorros and is now a cultural symbol of Chamorro identity and pride. This structural element is set between grand walls in the shape of book pages that are imprinted with a powerful speech by Chief Hurao, a celebrated Chamorro figure of resistance.

During the 2016 FestPac, the first floor of the museum was used for the Visual Arts Exhibit. These gallery spaces were filled with works by local and visiting Pacific delegates from the twenty-nine different Oceanic countries in attendance. The artwork distracted attention from the unfinished floors, paintwork, and other incomplete cosmetic details in the 6,500-square-foot galleries. While the first floor of the museum was open throughout the festival, the [End Page 195]second and third floors were under construction and remained closed. Even though much of the interior of the museum was inaccessible to the public, its indoor and outdoor theaters were functioning sites for film screenings, performances, and workshops.

The temporary opening of the Guam Museum, prompted by the 2016 FestPac, offered hopeful glimpses of what the museum can offer Guam. From the opening ceremony to the last day of the festival, the Guam Museum was a vibrant and dynamic space. Hundreds of people gathered at the museum’s entrance to witness the cultural exchange between Chamorro chanters and Fijian dancers before being welcomed into the museum for the first time. In the absence of narratives to guide visitors through the exhibits, artists were available to discuss their work. Musicians, dancers, and chanters from around Oceania filled the exhibit spaces with their voices and performances during scheduled time slots throughout the festival’s two weeks, and visitors packed the museum’s first floor to watch the many events taking place hourly. The indoor theater was used throughout FestPac to showcase new documentary and feature films from across Oceania. The outdoor theater was also an important feature of the festival; families brought chairs and mats to sit and watch the performing arts delegates engage in traditional song, dance, and chant during the day. In the evening, films were projected on the outside museum walls. During the Festival of the Pacific Arts, museum admission was free, and programming for the two weeks was available on multiple media platforms. These gestures helped foster a...


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