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Saturday, May 13, 2000

Bishop Museum
staffers involved in
artifacts dispute attend
national convention

By Burl Burlingame


Continuing a close relationship with an organization that Bishop Museum executives admit duped them, several staff members with ties to Hui Malama are representing the museum at a national conference.

Beginning tomorrow in Baltimore, the weeklong American Association of Museums convention is the nation's primary showcase for museum professionals, and includes seminars and workshops as well as networking possibilities.

Rifts within the museum were made public when Vice President Elizabeth Tatar surrendered a number of priceless "Forbes Cave" artifacts from the institution's collection to Hui Malama's Eddie Ayau, who claimed to be representing the combined interests of several groups. The artifacts have since disappeared.

Chosen to represent Bishop Museum at the convention are:

Bullet Valerie Free, manager of Cultural Resources and Collections Care, the museum's contact for the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, who works directly for Tatar and has been present at every public hearing regarding the missing artifacts.

Bullet Miki'ala Ayau, collections technician and sister of Eddie Ayau, whose complaints about newsletter photographs helped lead to disciplining of museum public-relations specialist Nanette Purnell, who was later fired. Ironically, Ayau is a panelist for the convention seminar "Handle With Care: Sacred Objects and Museum Methods."

Bullet Noelle Kahanu, former collections employee and newly secured as manager of the museum's New Trade Winds Project web site, an initiative sponsored by Sen. Dan Inouye. Kahanu is also a Hui Malama member and Ayau's domestic partner, and both are former Inouye staffers.

Museum director W. Donald Duckworth, a member of American Association of Museums' ethics committee, is also attending the convention, as is education department Chairman Guy Kaulukukui, a friend of Miki'ala Ayau's.

Although the museum in the past has not generally covered attendees' expenses, it is this year. Ayau, however, is receiving a stipend from the convention because she is a panelist.

According to Tatar, all members are attending workshops and panels. Free is also recruiting for a conservator's position; and Kahanu's role is to be introduced to other museum professionals.

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