Embattled Bishop Museum chief quits

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Thursday, November 2, 2006

By Leila Fujimori

The man who headed Bishop Museum through tumultuous years and painful battles with a native Hawaiian group is resigning to become president of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia on Feb. 1.

Many will remember Bill Brown, president of the museum for the past five years, for his role in connection with a set of 83 native Hawaiian artifacts that pitted several native Hawaiian groups and the museum against each other.

A few Hawaiian activists called for Brown's resignation in 2004, when the museum proclaimed itself a native Hawaiian organization that could act as a claimant for sacred and funerary objects on a par with 130 recognized native Hawaiian groups.

"Well, good riddance," said Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell, president of the native Hawaiian group Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O' Hawaii Nei, upon learning of Brown's departure. "I think Bill Brown did so much damage to the image of the Bishop Museum, it's irreparable.

"He lacked spirituality and common sense when it came to native Hawaiians," Maxwell said. "He has a Western mind, and he can never transcend into Hawaiian thinking."

Brown declined an interview with the Star-Bulletin, but said in a news release: "It has been an honor and pleasure to have led Bishop Museum for the last five years. There were challenges along the way, but with the support of the Board of Directors and the work of our highly qualified staff, the museum is now much stronger and headed for a great future."

Under Brown's tenure, "the museum has eliminated its annual operating deficit, doubled endowment, built the $17 million Science Adventure Center," and began the first major restoration of Hawaiian Hall, the museum's news release said. It also has a majority of native Hawaiians on its board of directors for the first time, the release said.

In February 2000, long before Brown arrived in October 2001, the museum handed to Hui Malama 83 artifacts that had been taken by explorer David Forbes in the 1880s and sold to the museum in the early 1900s. Hui Malama reburied the objects.

Two of the 14 recognized Hawaiian groups with claims to the artifacts called for their return and sued the museum and Hui Malama, which refused to return them.

This past summer, Bishop Museum said Hui Malama had breached its contractual duty when it failed to return the items to the museum in 2001. The museum maintains it loaned the artifacts for one year and the group repatriated them improperly.

In September, the museum finally recovered the items from the burial caves.

Hui Malama maintains that the artifacts are funerary objects and should be returned to those for whom they were carved 1,000 years ago, Maxwell said.


Friday, November 3, 2006

» The Bishop Museum did not proclaim itself a native Hawaiian organization, as was incorrectly reported yesterday in a Page A3 article on the resignation of museum director William Brown. Also, the museum says Brown's departure is due to family reasons and is unrelated to the museum's fight with the group Hui Malama, as was implied by the headline and article.

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