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Gov reappoints three and adds two new members to Museum Board of Trustees

Reappointed members voice responses to “state of museum” exposé

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Governor Lemanu P. S. Mauga has reappointed Clara Reid to chair the Jean P. Haydon Museum Board of Trustees for another year, along with, Regina Meredith Fitiao and Tapaau Dr Dan Aga to continue on as Trustees.

He also appointed James Himphill and Letitia Mautumua Peau -Folau to the Museum Board of Trustees for 1-year terms expiring July 3, 2024.  

Samoa News has a copy of the appointment through a General Memorandum No. 163-23, sent to government leaders on July 3, 2023.

The appointments to the Museum Board of Trustees were Pursuant to Section 17.0405 of the American Samoa Code Annotated.

Governor Lemanu noted that he is confident these trustees possess the abilities to carry out the statutory duties of this Board, and he urged all to extend the Board their support.

Three weeks after the annual appointment was sent out to the American  Samoa Museum Board of Trustees, Samoa News discovered the Museum artifacts appeared to have been abandoned for quite some time, and reported on the museum artifacts needing a good caring hand, after witnessing first hand — handicrafts falling apart, dull looking pieces of artifacts, termite infestations on wooden canoes spreading from one room to another.

Samoa News reported in 2022 that the then acting chair of ASMBT Clara Reid said, "Initially the responsibility and due diligence of the Museum Board of Trustees is to maintain the stabilization of our cultural and priceless artifacts in the museum collection.”

She was pointing to acceptance of Volunteer museum curator Erika Radewagen and ASCC art professor Reggie Meredith Fitiao into the 2022 University of Hawaii-East West Center Pacific Island Museum Institute Program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. “It is significant that we have two museum specialists to evaluate the collection for stabilization under the certification of the Pacific Island Museum Institute Program,” Reid said.

When Samoa News visited the museum, only the Samoa Arts Council Assistant Executive Director Mary Taufetee was present or available to answer questions about the artifacts that were seen in need of care.

The Museum building, which was recently renovated in 2021, was originally 1917 Naval Commissary and also houses the Samoa Arts Council, taking over about quarter of the front side space.

Assistant Executive Director Taufetee, responded to Samoa News questions about the condition of the Museum artifacts saying, "the Museum hasn't personnel nor funding."

As a result of her comments, on a Samoa News photo caption, July 27,2023 — re-appointed chair of the Jean P Haydon Museum Reid, wrote to Taufetee in this cc:ed copy directed to Samoa News.

"It's obvious that you are confused about the Museum Board of Trustees and the organized entity known as the Arts Council. You are mistaken if you believe you have any authority over the Museum or that the Arts Council can use any of its funds to ‘care’ for the Museum.”

Chairwoman Reid also attached a copy of the July 3, 2023 General Memorandum 163-23 Appointments to the Museum Board for Taufetee's review, as was the 1970s legislation that created the Museum of American Samoa in Title 17-Chapter 04 in the Annotated Code of American Samoa.

The chairwoman was also asking Ms Taufetee if they could meet to discuss her concerns at her earliest convenience. Suggesting to meet before a Board Meeting scheduled for August 2, 2023.

One Museum Board of Trustee reappointed member, Regina Meredith -Fitiao accused the Samoa News reporter "of not going the extra mile to inquire about the strides that have been taken for our museum presently, which includes the honorable appointments of the museum board of trustees by our Governor, and the recent work spearheaded by the Board of organizing and examining many other artifacts that have been stored in boxes with the help of the University of Washington/Burke Museum students and faculty."

She also noted that there are competent people on the board who are actively working with other museums, universities and conservators off island to assist them with approaching the conditions of every artifact as respectfully and carefully as possible

"Stewardship is our focus and our calling. It is disappointing that the article was from the viewpoint of one person. Let’s give credit where credit is due, and lift each other up. Working together even though we are distinctly and clearly different entities, the Arts will thrive by supporting each other’s efforts."

Samoa News reported in June this year that ten Pacific Islander students from the University of Washington Burke Museum shared their skills of taking care of museum artifacts with the volunteer collections staff at Jean P. Haydon Museum for two days.

The full-day sessions included rearranging and relocating shelving, object handling, and implementing preliminary stabilization procedures for the books, siapo, and woven object collections.

The students were a mixture of graduate and undergraduate levels with ties to American Samoa, Samoa, Yap, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

Volunteer Curator Radewagen said of the hands-on assistance at the time that “the students routinely work with the collections at the Burke, so their skilled help and critical thinking skills proved invaluable to the Haydon collections.”

One of the three re-appointed Trustee members, Tapaau Dr. Dan Aga, asked the Board via email if there's anything they can do to address unresolved issues between the Museum Board and the Arts Council, as it could easily get out of hand since it’s now being played out in the public media.

Asked why the Museum looks beautiful from outside, but its contents haven't been looked after for quite some time,  Ms Reid suggested that Samoa News probably needed to talk to Mary [Taufetee] again about the contents. Her letter and attachments mentioned earlier were for Mary as well, she responded.

As of press time, Ms Taufetee had not responded to Samoa News queries about the kerfuffle.