On Sunday, May 7, the museum staff joined volunteers at Spalding House for our annual brunch to celebrate their dedication and hard work. As with all museums, we would not be able to do everything we do without our volunteers. In attendance was a group that illustrated the diversity of our volunteer corps—from Farrington High School students who help us out each month at Bank of Hawaii Family Sunday to docent Phyllis Nakasone, who was being honored for 35 years at the museum. In addition, we have amazing staffers who remain dedicated to the museum even after retiring—pictured above are Annette Sekine, former assistant manager of operations (left) and May Tawata, former accounting clerk (right), who now generously donate their time and expertise.
Volunteers are an essential part of the museum’s operations. This past year, 366 volunteers performed 17,522 hours of work, helping out with everything from conserving textiles for curator Sara Oka to assisting customers in the Museum Shop. And in addition to Nakasone’s longtime service, 39 other volunteers were recognized for their dedication.
As the Royal Hawaiian Band Glee Club played nostalgic tunes, around 100 volunteers sipped mimosas, and nibbled fluffy frittatas, sausages, baked ham, and kale salad whipped up by Spalding House Café chef Susan Lai Hipp.
Since the museum kicked its Japanese docent program into high gear in 2011, the museum’s volunteers have become increasingly international. That’s when Sumiyo Noguchi started donating her time and skills to the museum.
She arrived in Honolulu eight years ago from Washington, D.C., where she worked as a researcher on American policy for the government of Japan. “I researched everything from American transportation to nuclear energy policy,” she says. “For example, energy companies in Japan would want to know what would happen to American nuclear policy if Obama were to be elected. It was a very interesting and exciting job, because I got to learn so much about the United States.”
Noguchi was at loose ends when she discovered the museum. “When I came here I was wondering what I should do, but then I found that the museum was looking for Japanese volunteers to help with tours for a major exhibition on the works of Hokusai” she explains. “About 10 of us were trained for it, and immediately after the exhibition ended they asked us to remain and continue our education with the English language docents. That was the beginning of the Japanese-language docent program. At the time we were able to offer tours only once a week. Now we have tours every day except Sunday.”
She has long been a museum fan, and as a resident of Washington, D.C., was able to travel to Europe often to see art. “Coming to Hawai‘i and having the opportunity to work at the museum is a great experience—it has changed the way I think about art,” says Noguchi. Before working here, I was only interested in Impressionist and Renaissance art. I wasn’t so interested contemporary art. But now, after spending so much time studying and being exposed to contemporary art, I’ve become much more interested in it, and that’s a big change for me.”
At the brunch the museum recognized the following volunteers for their years of service:
5 Years: Alyssa Foster, Cathleen Brennan, Debbie Gray, Johanna Rawson, Lisa Goo, Mario Rodriguez, Walter Villalba.
10 Years: Anne Kase, Dietra Cordea, Edith Runner, Frank Duckart, Jean McIntosh, Linda Ahlers, Linda Nishimura, Michael Horikawa, Susan Palmore.
15 Years: Betsy Behnke, Cathy Levinson, Fred Smith, Jill Clapes, Joyce Azama, Lynn Lalakea, Marilyn Smith, Martin McMorrow, Mary Lou Botelho, Pamela Honbo, Roger Couture, Steve Miller, Sumiko Henna.
20 years: Anne Miller, Cecilia Doo, Jacquelyn Wesolosky, Mary Flynn, Nicki Foster.
25 years: Laura Young, Nancy Suzuki Slakter.
35 years: Mary Ann McCrea, Phoebe Campbell, Phyllis Nakasone.
40 years: Charles Wichman.