BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Guam’s State Historic Preservation Officer called for a halt to military construction for an archaeological review on July 30 through the 2011 Programmatic Agreement, due to concerns for “historic properties,” immediately supported by Sen. Therese Terlaje, whose areas of oversight include historic preservation.
Joint Region Marianas responded the same day underlining its respect for Guam’s “cultural and natural resources.”
But while that situation plays out, one positive part of the Guam military buildup is quietly proceeding outside of the limelight.
The University of Guam was designated as the site of the Department of Defense-funded $12 million Guam Cultural Repository, which will sit on a 10 and a half acre site and occupy about a quarter of the property, including the 13,230 square foot building.
Thomas W. Krise, president of UOG, told the Journal that Guam was fortunate to have the repository.
“We already have considerable strengths in the Micronesian [Area] Research Center … and I think that was an important part of the argument for getting the Department of Defense to build it on our campus. … Quite a few of these cultural repositories that the Department of Defense builds will end up on a military base somewhere.”
That brings challenges for access and use, he said.
“It’s a more distant relationship with experts in the field.”
Having it under the supervision of and in combination with MARC, Krise said, means the repository can become a place that is noted for preservation and curation of artifacts.
“We have a lot of artifacts in various hands all over the island and in museums abroad. Doing a really first-class job … will really elevate our protection and curation, and display and study of all of these other artifacts that we have.”
Artifacts found during the military construction will remain in the hands of the Environmental Division of Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, until they are turned over to repository.
Krise said a variety of benefits can evolve. “We’re going to be able to hire more people to become expert in this; I can see private interests in scholarship money for students who are interested in becoming experts in this kind of work – so there’s peripheral benefit from it.”
Given the relationship of the repository with SHPO and the Guam Museum, Krise said, “I expect the repository will be one aspect of our holistic sharing of our cultural background.”
Aside from holding and studying materials, the repository will also have exhibit space.
“That’s what I’ve been pressing on in terms of the design conversations – is to increase the number of exhibit glassed-in cases and so on, so that we can show things – probably on a rotating basis,” Krise said. That would allow showcasing of research of artifacts, he said. The repository would also be open for school visits.
The president said he has confidence in the whole team involved. “My only role really has been to stress the exhibition and visitor elements of the facility. Most of these repositories in the Department of Defense – they’re not really imagining visitors much.” Those are elements Krise would like to see besides the repository’s other roles.
In addition, the repository may encourage career paths for students, he said. It also dovetails with parts of UOG’s strategic plan – to be a leading research university, and a partner institution.
Having a high-quality facility built and managed to the standards that DoD has established will be better for artifacts as they are discovered, he said. “We’ll be doing a better job of this with private and commercial development as well,’ Krise said.
With the public comment period and the Request for Proposals and awards behind it, the repository is now in the permitting process.
James R. Hollyer, special assistant to the president, is the project manager for the repository, and SSFM International — through its Pacific Area office in Harmon — is the construction manager.
Hollyer told the Journal, “We’re working on [architectural and engineering] drawings and the permits.” Those include permits from a long list of government departments and the utilities authorities.
“Reliable Builders is our contractor, so they’re trying to do as much as possible,” Hollyer said. The repository project has a number of subcontractors, he said, both through SSFM and Reliable Builders. As to sufficient construction labor, Hollyer said, “That doesn’t seem to be at all an issue.”
Subcontractors include Guam-based companies such as Kinden Corp., Rocky Mountain Precast LLC, and M80 Systems Inc.
The project is now aiming at clearing and grading. “Then we can bring in the coring equipment to do the soil testing,” Hollyer said. “It’s kind of a multi-faceted operation.”
The target date for the occupancy permit is Oct. 5, 2021.
“We’re excited; we think it’s very doable,” Hollyer said.
Progress has been moving along, he said. “I think we’re doing pretty darn well.” Hollyer has had experience – including as a consultant that has been useful, he said. “I have a lot of familiarity with project management. But I’ve got engineers and people who know specifics, and my job is to lead the project, not to know all the details.”
Meanwhile, plans for how the repository will operate are already in draft form as a Statement of Purpose – what the repository will do and what it will hold in the collection.
Monique C. Storie, dean of libraries at UOG; told the Journal, “It in draft form until we are able to do a few walk throughs of the physical facility, but the preface materials will remain relatively unchanged.”
Storie is primarily responsible for that operational program development, which she is establishing through liaison with SHPO, the museum, and the Department of Chamorro Affairs.
She said it is envisioned that, “The Guam Museum is the official repository and custodian of historical artifacts for Guam. The Guam Cultural Repository assists the Guam Museum in carrying out its curatorial duties by providing the long-term care and storage of the archaeological artifacts and associated project records.”
In effect, the museum allows artifacts to be viewed by the public and to be shared for educational purposes, Storie said. “The museum is the one that would identify which artifacts they would want to put on display … from the repository.” Materials would then move back.
The repository will need qualified staff, to include an archaeological curator. “We do have faculty … who have archaeological experience as working in an archaeological repository,” Storie said. Those faculty members have been involved in planning, she said.
Storie said the repository will be built for growth. “When the RFP was put out it was built on the idea that the building itself was supposed to be able what is currently held in museum or – more importantly, at the Department of Defense Facility – plus about 30% more.” She said there is an understanding that there will be a need to expand and that is being taken into consideration in the building plans, and where certain elements of the building are sited.
That growth was based on what artifacts were known about and what was anticipated to come to the repository, but Storie said there are additional artifacts in the community.
Before the Guam Museum opened in 2016 it called for a moratorium on donated artifacts to conduct inventory. Storie said while some artifacts went to DoD, “What that meant was that the archaeology firms and the people who had these artifacts had to hold on to them.” mbj