Vatican Museums curators visit Guam

TOURING GUAM MUSEUM: From left, Micronesian Area Research Center Professor of Anthropology Don Rubinstein, Vatican Ethnological Museum Curator Father Nicola Mapelli, local artist Judy Flores, Guam Museum Director Dominica Tolentino and Vatican Ethnological Museum Associate Curator Katherine Aigner are shown during a tour of the Guam Museum in Hagåtña. Photo courtesy of the Guam Museum

Two curators from the Vatican Museums visited Guam on Oct. 23 and Nov. 2 as part of a multi-island tour of Micronesia, as the pair researched artifacts from Guam and the surrounding region kept in the Vatican's ethnological collections.

Objects from Guam in the Vatican's collections include batik artworks by local artist Judy Flores and a wooden canoe carving by master woodcarver Tun Segundo Blas, according to a Guam Museum press release. These artworks were presented to Pope John Paul II during his 1981 visit to Guam.

Other Micronesian objects in the Vatican Museums were collected by overseas missionaries in the 1920s, according to the release, and include mother-of-pearl inlaid wooden vessels from Palau, wooden combs and cowrie shell belts from Chuuk and Yap, and a machi, or ritual textile, from Yap.

Vatican Ethnological Museum Curator Father Nicola Mapelli and Associate Curator Katherine Aigner visited Guam, Chuuk, Yap, Palau and Pohnpei to verify these objects and conduct research as they work on updating the Vatican's catalog of non-European collections.

'Lively, revealing discussion'

While on Guam, Mapelli and Aigner met with Guam Museum representatives and toured the museum's permanent exhibition, I Hinanao-ta Nu I Manaotao Tåno I CHamoru Siha (The Journey of the CHamoru People).

The curators also met Flores, Don Rubinstein of the University of Guam's Micronesian Area Research Center and Father Francis Hezel, a Micronesia historian.

The meeting was "a lively, revealing discussion of the cultural, historical and social significance of the artifacts," according to the release.

According to the Vatican City State website, the Vatican Museums house collections of art, archaeology and anthropology that have been gathered by popes for centuries. In 2006, the Vatican Museums celebrated their 500th anniversary.

The Vatican Ethnological Museum, where the Guam and Micronesian artifacts are housed, also contains art from Oceania, the Americas, Africa and Asia.