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University of Guam Library Hosts NLM Traveling Exhibition “A Voyage to Health”

by Paul B. Drake
Assistant Professor, User Services & Document Delivery Librarian
University of Guam
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Library

When the National Library of Medicine announced a new traveling exhibit, A Voyage to Health, in spring 2010, staff at the University of Guam Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Library thought it was a good fit for us to host. A Voyage to Health presents efforts in Hawaii to reintroduce traditional navigation and voyaging. As the exhibit brochure states: “By restoring their heritage, this generation of voyagers seeks to heal the people.”

Image of the A Voyage To Health Exhibit Opening

2012 is the 60th anniversary of the chartering of the institution that is now the University of Guam, and we are celebrating with a year of events. The Library shared responsibility for activities in the month of April, so the exhibit was scheduled for the April 23 through July 28 time window, as one of the Library’s anniversary activities.

We wanted to relate the exhibit to island and regional efforts to restore navigation and traditional medicine. Traditional medicine was included because the University has a nursing program and we also wanted to make a connection with NLM. An opening program was held on Tuesday, May 24, 2012, with Dr. Tricia A. Lizama of the University’s Social Work Program speaking about her 2011 dissertation, How are traditional Chamoru healing practices being perpetuated and preserved in modern Guam: A phenomenological study, which is available through Open Access. Jose Martinez, a member of TASA, Traditions Affirming our Seafaring Ancestry, spoke about efforts to restore knowledge of traditional seafaring on Guam and the Marianas Islands. Both speakers mentioned that traditional seafaring and traditional medicine were not separate matters, but interwoven parts of the Chamorro culture.

A major concern was whether the exhibit would arrive on time for the opening program. Shipment to Guam is expensive and time-consuming. Creighton University Health Sciences Library in Omaha, Nebraska, hosted the exhibit through early April, and worked with us to expedite shipping of the two exhibit canisters and payment for shipping. Since the only cost to host an NLM exhibit is the cost of shipment to one’s institution, we were able to pay the shipping charges through an EFTS transfer.

As the exhibit was being assembled, a student walked by and pointed to a photo of a man on the last panel. The student said that he knew the man from a visit at the student’s island in Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The man in the photo was Mau Piailug, a master navigator from Satawal, FSM, who was asked to assist the Hawaiians in their efforts to restore knowledge of navigation.

As the first month of the exhibit concludes, people are still stopping by to view the exhibit. Several have asked about local traditional medicine books in the library. Faculty have appreciated the Higher Education module, Healing Elements: A Native Hawaiian Perspective, on the exhibit website, which consists of six one-hour classes with assignments, in-class activities, and resources. The Voyage to Health exhibit has firmly connected with quite a number of people at the university and in the greater island community.

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