Tuesday, July 21, 1998

Palace curator
was an ace
at the job

A Friends of
Iolani Palace director praises
Bartels' knowledge
and performance

By Pat Omandam


Caught up in the Iolani Palace controversy is Henry James Nape Bartels, a Vietnam War veteran whose knowledge of the Hawaiian monarchy may be unmatched, says a director of the Friends of Iolani Palace.

Margery Parker, membership chairwoman, said the 52-year-old Bartels is among the most informed in the islands regarding the kingdom. As longtime palace curator, she said, Bartels kept docents well-informed about the history they would later share with palace visitors.

"Therein lies his value," Parker said. "He's better than anybody I know of in terms of knowing about Hawaiian history, related to the monarchy."

And he did it with an excellent sense of humor, Parker said before yesterday's board meeting with Friends president, Abigail Kawananakoa.

Bartels declined to discuss his career or his recent resignation.

The former palace managing director's interest in Hawaiiana was nurtured at the University of Hawaii, where he majored in art and art history, graduating in 1967.

But that interest was put off for three years while Bartels served two terms as a Navy quartermaster based in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

In 1971, he volunteered as an artifact cataloger for Iolani Palace, and later became a part-time researcher/registrar for the committee that handled research, acquisitions and planning for the palace.

In recognition of his work, Bartels in 1973 was picked to attend a national seminar for historical administrators in colonial Williamsburg, Va. The program, sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the American Association of Museums, provided training on the operation of museums and historical societies, as well as national and state historic sites.

Keahi Allen, executive director of the State Council on Hawaiian Heritage, attended UH with Bartels. Above all else, Bartels is a man of integrity, she said.

"I would describe him as a very honest and forthright person," she said yesterday. "He's very much dedicated to his work and to his endeavors."

In 1975, Bartels, who is part-Hawaiian, was named curator, responsible for the palace's exhibits and conservation of its artifacts.

Five years later, Bartels married childhood friend Regina Kawananakoa, a relative of Abigail's. The nuptial was featured in a November 1980 Honolulu Magazine story because of both of their ties to royal Hawaiian lineage.

Regina Kawananakoa's father, Edward Keliiahonui Kawananakoa, is a great-grandnephew of King Kalakaua. Bartels' maternal uncle, Harry Montague Nuuanu Gooding Field, was the last husband of Queen Kapiolani.

The couple is no longer married. Bartels has said both families have been close for a long time.

Bartels served as curator for 21 years, overseeing completion of the palace restoration and the return of numerous palace artifacts. In recent years, he has had to deal with graffiti and termites on the palace grounds.

Haunani Apoliona, vice chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said Bartels and other staffers work hard to ensure docents not only appreciate Hawaiian history, but also the Queen's music, through several musical performances on the Iolani grounds.

In February 1997, Bartels became managing director, and Corinne Chun, assistant curator, became curator. He resigned earlier this month.


Henry James Bartels

Bullet Age: 52
Bullet Residence: Honolulu
Bullet Education: Punahou School, University of Hawaii.
Bullet Military: Vietnam War veteran; served in the Navy from 1968-1970.
Bullet Position: Longtime curator of Iolani Palace. Retired this month as managing director of Friends of Iolani Palace.

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