Construction Plans For Guam Museum Progressing

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Layout for planned facilities will be recognizably ‘Guam’

By Cameron Miculka

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Aug. 16, 2012) – Plans for the Guam Museum are making their way toward a final product, according to representatives of the museum.

Monte Mesa, chairman of the Guam Museum Foundation and Leona Young, the museum administrator, discussed the progress of the museum at the Rotary Club of Guam recently and their hopes that it would become a recognizable landmark on Guam.

Mesa drew comparisons to the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Opera House, saying that the museum has the potential to become an immediately recognizable part of Guam.

"You will know this is Guam," said Mesa referring to the museum's unique architecture.

Mesa and Young described the museum as a central piece in the "master plan" of revitalizing Hagåtña.

Hopefully, said Mesa, the museum will not only draw visitors to see the museum itself, but also encourage them to see other popular sights around the city.

"This is a catalyst," Mesa said. "And we need this."

Flood threat

Mesa also addressed concerns about the museum's construction at Skinner Plaza.

While some have said the museum will take over one of Hagåtña's only remaining grassy area, Mesa assured others that the project would take up only a small portion of the entire Skinner Plaza area.

The museum will cover about 30,000 square feet, or 30 percent of the plaza, Mesa said, and its distinctive arch is planned to be 40 feet tall.

Furthermore, the museum would provide opportunities for indoor activities and could potentially serve as a multipurpose center, Mesa said.

As for the concerns regarding the museum's proximity to a Hagåtña flood zone, Young said the museum foundation has worked with the engineers to determine how best to limit any potential damage.

However, the Skinner Plaza proposal still has some vocal critics.

Michael Ysrael, a prominent local businessman and property developer, said he's concerned that building the museum on the plaza would have major financial, aesthetic and even dangerous consequences.

His worries are that building the museum will pose a major flood threat, due to water not having anywhere to drain away. He also was concerned that the building would take away from the significance of Skinner Plaza and said the museum should be built elsewhere, preferably in an existing building.

Ysrael said Guam should focus on simpler structures, rather than "buy the most expensive Ferrari on the block."

One location he suggested was converting Government House in Agana Heights into the museum. Ysrael believes that, as a symbol of Guam's colonial past, Government House would be an excellent spot for the museum.

Artifacts

"One of our biggest concerns is repatriating the artifacts to Guam," Young said.

Young said artifacts from throughout the island's history could be found all over the world in museums and private collections. In fact, more than a million artifacts occupy two floors of the DNA Building.

Furthermore, museums in Spain have agreed to return any artifacts from Guam in their galleries provided Guam has a museum of its own in which to house them.

Design plans

Young also said the Guam Preservation Trust, the museum's curators and historians, has developed an "exhibit narrative" -- essentially writing the "story" of Guam that visitors will see when they enter the museum.

The museum will cover five eras of the island: natural history, the pre-Latte period, the Latte period, the Spanish era and World War II. Designers and educators will work together to produce the plans for the museums.

While Young and Mesa both said the exterior of the building has been mostly designed, there are still some minor adjustments being made by the designers. They said they expect the plans to be released by early September, pending approval by the governor.

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