Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum

Offbeat Museums

I seek out these small art museums whenever I travel.  I love art, but my attention span is short.  Such small spaces are much easier to digest and so much more filling!  This gem of a museum is located in Long Beach, California.  It was founded by the late Dr. Robert Gumbiner who was a traveler, an art collector and thankfully for us, a philanthropist.  He worked for a time in Guam and brought back many pieces of Polynesian art.  Most of the pieces in this museum are from his collection.

An hour is all you really need to take in both the inside and outside sculpture garden.  We also sat through a short documentary tracing the history of Hawaii.  It was a sad story and one we have heard many times before--how the arts and culture of a people are disappearing.  That is precisely why Dr. Gumbiner started to collect the islands' ethnic art.  I hope the museum continues to acquire more pieces.  The large wooden sculptures in the garden were exceptionally beautiful and unique.
I was especially interested in these stone wheels, called Rai Stones.   They came from the island of Yap in the Western Caroline Islands of Micronesia.  The Yap islanders have been using these limestone wheels for hundreds of years as currency for a variety of social transactions like marriage and inheritance.  The value of the stone is based on size, workmanship and history.  How I would love to go there and see how they are placed in real gardens!

It never fails.  Whenever I visit one of these offbeat museums, I learn something new and add a destination to my lengthy Bucket List.  Micronesia!  Now Number 32!

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