College of Arts and Letters Department of Art Studies University of the Philippines Diliman Quezon City

A final paper in

Art Studies 240
Under: Dr. Helen Yu-Rivera Art Studies Department


the Sorsogon Museum and the processing of Memory in its Collections

by: Geri Matthew Carretero MA Art Studies (Museum Studies) 2nd Semester A.Y. 2011-2012

The researcher is very grateful to those who helped him in this study by providing research data, historical information, guided museum tour, support group and other study guides. To my mother, Mrs. Marigrace Despi Carretero for editing this research study. To my fellow artists from Kurit –Lagting, a non-stock, non- profit socio- civic art organization with the thrust of promoting culture and arts among the youth of Sorsogon through alternative art education; a big thanks to all of you. To Sorsogon Arts Council, a great salute to your commitment to the arts. To Mr. Joseph John Perez (spokesperson of SAC), thank you for the tour and information! In Memory of Mr. Reynaldo Jamoralin, sarong alagad nin sining salamat! In Memory of my late uncle, Alex Flores (Alexander Flores Despi) – a stuntman turned character actor active in the late 50s to early 90s- your contribution to the movie industry will always be remembered and commemorated.


CHAPTER ONE BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY This paper was first given light in December of 2011 when the researcher acted upon the reestablishing of Kurit-Lagting, a non-stock, non- profit socio- civic art organization with the thrust of promoting culture and arts among the youth of Sorsogon through alternative art education. The group envisioned to be an important part of the community art scene in Sorsogon through art education and practice as its primary objective as a group. That same month, a curatorial proposal was also presented by the researcher to the group to mount an exhibit at the Sorsogon Museum with a theme that would reflect the Sorsoganon’s culture and traditions. These series of events allowed the researcher to have a meeting together with the rest of Kurit-Lagting with the Sorsogon Arts Council (SAC), the sanctioning body of Sorsogon for the arts that encourages artist groups to affiliate with them and give support to their activities. The affiliation of Kurit-Lagting gave the researcher a chance to gain access to the museum collection through a museum tour last February of this year which was granted by Mr. John Joseph Perez, the spokesperson of SAC. The brief tour gave a concrete explanation on the museum’s plans in the reproduction of cultural artifacts which are of significance to the province of Sorsogon intended to enhance the quality of collection of the new museum. The presences of private collections of rarely existing artifacts found in Sorsogon accessible only to the owner/donor are now made available to students and teachers and could be a great part of the educational programs of the museum. Perez reiterated that the objects displayed would be able to contribute to the community’s education in the history of Sorsogon but still needs a lot of improvement especially in terms of its curatorial aspect. He further stated that having the displays available to the public is very important because the existing artifacts and the part they played in the past events in Sorsogon would make people become aware of the historical background of the culture and traditions of the people.

Last February 25,2012, the Kurit-Lagting launched its first worshop on visual arts and criticism where the researcher gave a lecture on Curatorship and talked about the Sorsogon Museum as one of the topics . Thus, this event sparked the interest of the researcher to conceptualize a paper that would serve not only as critique but also as a proposal in improving the projection of historical narratives of the museum.It is because through time, the common notion of Museums as a repository of objects or

artifacts as part of its collection or as a structure that houses several paintings important in the acquisition of collectors and patrons has changed a lot. Today, the Museum is not just an institution that keeps and guards the collection of artifacts for public viewing but it also serves as keeper and transmitter of memory with historical and monumental importance. Thus different museums of every kind depending on the collection they have, can be seen around the Philippines whether in cities, provinces and certain communities. Museum research entails a lot of things to consider in order to understand the relation between history and memory in the context of the museum- its background, framework, collections and other entities that affect our historical consciousness of both then and now. This paper examines thoroughly the Sorsogon Museum in its processing of memory through its collections of cultural history, archaeological artifacts and memorabilia relevant to its narratives. As the sole product of the researcher’s work, this paper intends to provide a concrete analysis of the historical narratives provided by the museum collection, trace its origins and identify the stories represented to the people of Sorsogon. This research project also seeks to provide additional information to the people of Sorsogon, local artists and entice potential curators as well as aspiring researchers in Museum Studies. This study then hopes also to determine the status of the museum from its past to its present shape.

Since this paper examines the Sorsogon Museum in its processing of memory through its collections of cultural history, archaeological artifacts and memorial objects relevant to its narratives, the researcher utilizes historical and archival sources about the Sorsogon Museum and its collection to find answers to the problem in this inquiry. It analyzes the museum’s framework and collection based on historical and current developments about the history of Sorsogon, its original purpose as well as its historical background and importance to the Sorsoganon culture.


The angle of this study is focused only on the museum as a monumental site of commemoration through its collections of cultural history and memorialization. It is limited to the boarder of the problem: How are the stories of Sorsogon told by the museum and its collections in the framework of cultural history and memory? It likewise seeks to answer the following questions: 1. What are the stories told about the history and culture of Sorsogon through its collections? 2. How does the museum shape the history of Sorsogon in the displayed collections? 3. How do the collections affect the historical consciousness and collective memory of the people of Sorsogon? 4. Whose history and memory is projected by the museum and why is it monumental as a structure? 5. What memories are portrayed in the collection and other exhibit displays? 6. How is the museum curated? What is its framework? 7. In what historical contexts are the collections situated? 8. What are the intentions of the curator? 9. What are the governing bodies of the museum? 10. How do they affect the way the museum is curated in the context of cultural history and memory? Based on the problem presented, this study aims to: a.) provide a critical analysis of the museum and its collection by using the framework of history and memory b.) identify how the museum shapes the history of Sorsogon in the displayed collections c.) know whose memory and what stories are told about the history and culture of Sorsogon through the collections d).understand the way the museum is curated in the context of history, culture and memory e.) find out how the museum’s governing bodies influence history and memory f.)give necessary recommendation in the aspect of curation and preservation g.) serve as a proposal to redefine and retrace the framework of the museum

CHAPTER THREE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND METHODOLOGY This paper will utilize historical research and archiving methods to provide a critical framework and analysis of the topic/ problem. The researcher will also conduct interviews and consultations related to curation, architecture and other museum practices.The frameworks in this study will delve on the historical and memorial aspects of the Museum and the argument on the cultural identity being represented in the collection. Theories on monumentality and politics of space will be utilized in order to analyze the museum and its collections in accordance with the categories of questions presented in the main problem to support its findings. Theories discussed in class specifically the writings on history and memory by: a. Crane, Susan. Collecting and Historical Consciousness in Early Nineteenth-Century Germany. New York: Cornell University Press, 2000. b. Crane, Susan. “Writing the Individual Back into Collective Memory”. The American Historical Review, Vol.102,No.5. Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 1997 c. Huyssen, Andreas. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. CA: Stanford University Press, 2003. Moreover, significant concepts on reframing and processing of memory will also serve as secondary guides in supporting the argument of this paper such as theories on the legibility and visibility of narratives in a public space specifically by: d. DeRose, Justin and EkaterinaHaskins. “Memory, Visibility and Public Space”.Space and Culture,Vol.6, No.4 . CA:Sage Journals,2003.

CHAPTER FOUR PRESENTATION OF DATA AND ANALYSIS This section presents the data and answers to the main problem of the study. This also tackles the categories of analysis which enter around the idea of identification, connection and familiarizationthat is how people effectively relates to the objects in the museum, how the museum identifies the collection based on its framework, its role in the shaping of the past and the present, its public and private commemoration of events and political figures through individual and collective memory, and as a space or avenue that functions as a repository of historical objects in the preservation of memory. The researcher investigates the contexts of how the cultural identity is imagined or redefined in spaces for historical purposes. This also looks into the curatorial aspects of collection itself and how they affect the continuity of history in terms of curation or how the stories are being told in terms of its permanence, ephemeral and temporal elements in shaping the historical consciousness of the people of Sorsogon. There are four sections which will be presented. The first of which is The Museum: the Monumental and Monumentality which will focus on the history of the museum on thie issue of monumentality and memory. This will look into the museum’s background- it’s history, architectural style, the people behind its establishment,its initial plans, its public appropriation as a space of commemoration in memory of the war and the traditions of the people of Sorsogon. The next section will explore the museum’s framework in its processes of memory and perspectives on historical consciousness. This is Shaping the Past:Public and Private Memorialization which will show the museum as a sanctioned space to remember the past through individual, collective and historical memory. The third is Curation and Collection: the Legibility and Visibility which will use the framework of Memory, Visibility and Public Space to provide a critical gaze on the preservation of memory and finding the form/ content in the collections of the museum. Redefining and Retracing History and Memory is the last section which will provide the case of monumentaliy by Huyssen and Crane’s discourse in the form and content of historical museums by analyzing and giving a recommendation/proposal in the curatorial aspect of the museum. This will further examine the curatorial aspect in the sphere of public space by Haskins and DeRose and the role of the curator in shaping the historical consciousness of the people and the way the historical narrative is told in the museum.

I.THE MUSEUM: the Monumental and Monumentality

Early people have been constructing monuments to validate their beliefs and mark a period in their time. The very essence of a monument through thousands of years has been defined as structure to remember their gods,connect with them, talk to them and be with them for eternity. Some also regard monuments as landmark that creates the boundary between mortality and divinity or a

landmark of importance for remembering past events which is called memory.

Memories are a great part of history as it gives a lot of interpretation to the things produced from the past and the written documents in the present prove that there is a past. As more objects come at hand in the present, more memories operate and contribute to the narratives of the past and its connection to the present.What is important is how we deal and treat these memories so that the future generations could relate to them.

According to a book about historical consciousness by Crane (2003 ), the modern history of museums is a history of imaginaries that became realities. It is that museums create a reality through the objects from the past and reinforces the value of preservation that in turn becomes a memorial for establishing historical consciousness. These objects preserve memory which in turn becomes important for presenting the identity, and meaning of an object (105-106). Memories are expressed through stories, historical texts, cultural forms and material objects that have been handed down to us through generations with physical knowledge of the past.

Likewise, the Sorsogon Museum also possesses these qualities both as a creator of realities and as a product of the past. The issues surrounding the preservation of memory and its manifestation in history will be tackled here later. According to Mr. Joseph John Perez, the spokesperson of Sorsogon Arts Council, the museum was first conceived in a proposal presented by the late chairman of the Sorsogon Arts Council, Mr. Reynaldo T. Jamoralin together with Mrs. Cecilia H. Duran of the Sorsogon Provincial Tourism Council, Inc. In the documents obtained by the researcher, the former plan was to build the museum and heritage center on an island called Pinaculan located near Sorsogon Bay which is known for its beautiful sunsets but for some reasons it didn’t push through.

Perez also narrated how the museum started as a proposal and how it was implemented that in 2003 with former Mayor Sally Lee of Sorsogon together with various local cultural organizations in Sorsogon came up with the idea to establish a provincial museum and heritage center thus giving way to the founding of the Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center, Inc. The project was formally launched in October of that same year,during the Kasanggayahan Festival in celebration of Balik Sorsoganons who all pledged to help finance the project from abroad. The proposed research and exhibition of the Museum of Sorsogon Province was also said by others to be put up in the ancestral house belonging to a prominent De Vera family called “De Vera Homes” located near the Sorsogon Cathedral to fulfill the mission of Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center, Inc. in establishing a world class Museum in the province but this was not verified.

Under a Memorandum of Agreement, the turning over by the Sorsogon Provincial Government of a heritage building that used to be a government hospital to the Sorsogon Museum & Heritage Center, Inc. for use as a museum was made. This also marked the commencement for the fund-raising activities in different parts of the country and abroad for the establishment of the museum and heritage center. Several government institutions were involved in the project including the NCCA and National Historical institute ( Jamoralin par.3 ).

According to Jamoralin in his description of the project (in a website launced by the museum), “the museum will provide the Sorsoganons a glimpse of their past- their history, heritage and culture”. Thus the need to establish the museum is for the people to have a glimpse of history in a permanent structure in the province that will cater to the locals, as wells as tourists to take a peek into Sorsogon’s rich history, heritage and culture and trace their roots as people”. Artifacts of great significance are physical evidence that there is a culture of the province (par.1) This physical knowledge takes its form through objects which are representations of historical memory and these preserve the continuity of the narratives of the past to the present. In 2008, the Museum was formally opened to the public. It was also a commemoration of those who helped to show case exhibit of Sorsogon's geological history, flora & fauna, pre-history, age of contact, from pre colonial to Filipino-Spanish colonial period, Filipino-American colonial period up to the Filipino-Japanese times in a building that used to be the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital- a mandated local historical landmark and heritage structure was converted into this museum to house its collection.

The structure bears the Neo-classical style of the American colonial period between the years 1916 to 1920 and restored to its original state or to its original architectural design trough Adaptive reuse which is a process used in adapting old structures for new purposes such as a space ideal for exhibit ( Jamoralin par. 2).

Jamoralin was very idealistic about the opening of his long perceived project. As the founder and president of Sorsogon Arts Council who advocated the engagement of arts in the society, he was very prolific in researching the local traditions and practices of the people of Sorosogon and was responsible for the institutionalization of Pantomina sa Tinampo every Kasanggayahan Festival in October. A playwright and folklorist, he wrote the dance-drama in the Bikol dialect, Si Bulusan nan si Agingay, based on the local legend of Lakes Bulusan and Agingay, which received several production and tour grants from the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and NCCA, and Kantada ni Daragang Magayon, Mandirigma, adopted from Bikolano artist Merlinda Bobis’ epic poetry of the same title, which was toured around the country and presented at the CCP Little Theater in 2000. In 2009, after just a year of the opening of the museum he suffered a stroke and after four years of battling paralysis and other complications died last March 12, 2012 (Perez par. 1 and 4). Indeed Jamoralin understood the crucial role of these objects from the past and the role they play to relate with the community. But these objects will depend on how the curator will arrange the objects and how the objects converse with each other. II. Shaping the Past:Public and Private Memorialization Jamoralin initiated the project by presenting a proposal to various institutions and individuals who can help restore a lost connection to the past.The framework of the museum (as stated in the project proposal of individuals such as Jamoralin, together with institutions and government officials) is mainly archaeological meaning cultural relics, artifacts and materials dug from places and owned by private collectors will be displayed that reflect Sorsoganon’s culture and will create awareness and understanding of the cultural traditions of the province.

In a proposal for NCCA prepared by the Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center, the obejctives of the museum on cultural artifacts of significance to the province of Sorsogon intended to enhance the sparse number of collection of the new museum, the proponents thought of reproducing rarely existing artifacts found in Sorsogon which were kept as private collection from Sorsogon, the National Museum,

Camarines Sur and Albay. These artifacts wil be helpful to students,teachers and visitors.It will be part of the educational programs of the museum for their public programs ( SMHCI 1-2).

From the proposal itself, shaping the past was done through the relevance of artifacts to Sorsogon’s historical development which will create awareness and understanding of the province’s history. Likewise,it was also intended to showcase an organized set of cultural artifacts than can bring to Sorsoganons a recollection of their past, as linked to other regional parts of the country and of the Asian continent as well. Such undertaking reflects the ardent desire of the proponents to draw out from the people of Sorsogon the appreciation of their roots, and their connection to neighboring countries. Their identity as a people is also strengthened through their knowledge and memory of their past through the artifacts(2).

This is why various educational programs have been launched since its opening to shape the historical consciousness of the Sorsoganon and the promotion of the provinces’historical and cultural heritage among its peoples for cultural identity, nationalism, patriotism and sense of identity . Since 2008 after the opening of project, a series of programs were implemented. With the help of SMHCI it would be able to contribute to education such as the history of Sorsogon, through the explanation about the existing artifacts and the part they played in the past events in Sorsogon which is usually simply taken from books or documents and the part they played in the past events in Sorsogon. This could be of great help most particularly to teachers and students on lessons pertaining to history and culture since it is a source of important information on the historical background of the province.

'Bisita Museo sa Kasanggayahan’ was launched since 2008 to effect awareness for the arts. It also promotes the historical and cultural heritage of Sorsogon. Another activity was month-long guided tour at the Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center, Inc. (SMHCI) conducted as part of the celebration of the Kasanggayahan Festival 2009. Facilitators in the tour were college students who were trained volunteers for the purpose.In the Museum Tour Guiding Training Workshop given to the students, Sorsogon governor Sally Lee said that the'Bisita sa Museo' highlights the pre-history information, like the significance of burial jars and stones, the Chinese wares during the Ming Dynasty as part of barter trade with China, the Galleon Trade with Donsol's Astillero and Magallanes' shipyard, the Fil-Am war and abaca industry during the American Era and historical figures/structures in Sorsogon's history ( Dela Rama par. 1).

In 2010, another set of Bisita sa Museo was held to strengthen the shaping of the past through a joint project of Kasanggayahan Foundation. Dr. Stephen Henry Totanes from Ateneo de Manila discussed “The First Decade of American Rule in Sorsogon( 1900-1910) which was a combined lecture and a guided museum tour acitivty ( Sorsogon Guardian par.1).

Last April 2011, in an article written by Irma Guhit, the Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center Incorporated (SMHCI), in partnership with the Philippine Daily Inquirer( PDI), spearheaded the first ever story telling session at the provincial museum to commemorate the life of heroes in celebration of the Araw ng Kagitingan. This event was part of the PDI’s “Read Along Program” in its continuing support to make literacy one of its advocacy by focusing on the heroic deeds of our forefathers (par.1).

That same year during the month of May, the SMHCI also launched an activity entitled Museum and Memory in celebration of the International Museum Day Celebration. According to Bicol Today in an article “ History Experts to conduct free workshop in Sorsogon”, featured topics during the workshop were: Natural and Cultural Properties with National Museum Archeologist Wilfredo Ronquillo as resource person; Museums and Community with Dr. Ana Labrador, the technical adviser for Research and Museology of the national Museum; and, The Role of Legislation and Museums in Cultural Preservation were discussed by Atty. FD Nicolas Pichay, the legal consultant of the National Historical Commission (par.1)

What leads to the legibility of these activities to the interior aspect of the museum-that is the collections/ displays- now all depends on the current curator’s treatment of the objects in relation to historical and colelctive memory . These activities mentioned above will be examined if it has really transpired in the collection.Has the museum been truthful to their visions and goals? Does these affect the way the museum is curated in the context of cultural history and memory? III. Curation and Collection: the Legibility and Visibility of Memory The idea of Collection and Preservation of Historical objects in the Sorsogon Museum is still affected by the rhetorics of the nineteenth century historical preservation. The imperative of “saving” according to Crane is that collecting and preserving objects draw the collector’s attention because they

secure them for future use. The collectors may have celebrated or mourned the passing of these objects thus it leads to its restoration for its perceived significance (Crane 38). The visibility of these objects restored and saved for display now all depends on the current curator’s treatment of the collection and the attempts to attain a chronology of events/periods in time. The historical narrative is affected by the way the curator arranges the collection of objects and the narrative is also constructed the way the objects are arranged.

Presently, three galleries located on different rooms compose the museum which host the exhibit collection.The conducted museum tour provided by Perez to the researcher provided him the overall look of the museum and its displays. The former curator according to Perez was Noel Escultura from NCCA and the acting curator in the present is Dr. Divina Diaz , a DepEd supervisor. Located on the right side, is the major gallery which contains a diorama of sceneries reconstructed to show the geologic history of Sorsogon, its vegetation and wildlife,and pre-historic inhabitants. A mural oil painting depicting various concepts and beliefs about life and death is accentuated by a series of artifacts laid along the space where it is installed. Included are excavated pre- historic finds of old burial jars and covers, artifacts of cooking tools used for the early people , old pictures and memorabilias during the American and Japanese time, chinaware in the Ming Dynasty, old clothings in the Spanish period, photographs and articles featuring Thomasites who were assigned in Sorsogon during the American occupation. A very intriguing feature of a Solar System installation situated in the same gallery where the old clothings and photographs is also displayed. After the major gallery is an open area where the where trophies, plaques, banners and costumes garnered by the Sorsogon Arts Council and its affiliate group the Community-Based Theater Group (CBTG) are displayed and another room for eco-tourism where a tableau of divers in Donsol and a whale shark are displayed with posters of each town of the province, and their products, scenic spots and other significant information about them.

After the eco-tourism gallery is the library, containing books about the province of Sorsogon which is also a significant section of the museum. Some back issues of Inquirer and a magazine entitled Mr & Ms donated by Eugenia Apostol (one of the founders of Philippine Daily Inquirer) including certificates and trophies are most of those found here. The visual arts gallery, souvenir items and coffee table books about the province of Sorsogon are likewise contained beside the library part of the museum.

IV. Redefining and Retracing History and Memory Upon mentioning the above activities of the museum, let us turn our attention now to the structure and the collection itself to see if it aligns with the proposed objectives of Jamoralin and the institutions who helped built the museum as well as other individuals who donated memorabilias and other objects which seem relevant to the history of Sorsogon. It raised many questions on whose history and memory is projected by the museum and why is it monumental as a structure ? or to a much bigger sphere:How are the stories of Sorsogon told by the museum and its collections in the framework of cultural history and memory?

Today, after almost after four years since its establishment the museum stands on its own located strategically at the back of the Sorsogon provincial gym and the office of the Department of Education near the old Capitol building (which is also a historical and monumental site of great scale). During the tour last February 2012, Perez explained that ever since he ( Jamoralin) suffered stroke he was not able to supervise the museum and would often just visit the space and take a look around. Perez elaborated that when Jamoralin saw the museum’s interior arrangement during his occasional visits:“Nagkikiri,kiri baya an gurang. May sinasabi sya pero di ko man maintindihan kay na stroke ngani. Lain sya kumbinsido”( The old man was shaking his head, I thought that he wasn’t convinced when he saw the arrangement of the displays. He suffered stroke so I could not understand what he was saying). Constructive criticisms are needed in times when the legibility of historical texts are not understandable enough for the people and this is also what Jamoralin felt when he saw the current state of the displays.

The present critique hopes to serve its purpose in acknowledging what is best to be said and what needs to be written about the museum.

Likewise, the monumentality of the museum in its aesthetic sense can be seen through its architecture. The building’s restoration to its original state was done because they serve a purpose to the current needs of the state or individual or in a general view, it fits the framework of aesthetics and narratives of a certain group of people.The neo-classic qualities of the former hospital turned museum glorify the power of the Americans as one of their colonial legacy to the people of Sorsogon. Its conversion from its former functions as a hospital to its present status as a space of exhibition creates a blurred boundary between what is being projected to the community in its goal in telling the story about

the cultural traditions, customs and practices of Sorsogon and as a monumental site of the war period. To emphasize this point, the only thing that is being told to the community is the aesthetic categories of the museum as historic neo-classic architecture for its majestic proportions, symmetric windows and overwhelming scale that cast a shadow to whoever enters its premises.

As monumental as it may seem with all its claims of permanence and stability (always projected as a monument beneficial to the community because it showcases their own culture and traditions), the horrors of war during the American period-the remnants of their political power and political dominance in Sorsogon are not addressed nor given light but instead hidden behind the walls and not obviously by the viewing public. Using Huyssen’s analysis of the holocaust memorial model in Germany, the Sorgogon Museum as it appears to the trained eye also functions both as a mimesis and cover up of another memorial site (the former provincial hospital) to suit the category of being monumental-that is a need for

permanence invisibly( Huyssen 38-39) . Intentional or not, this category of the museum as a political site of memory is always being muted by the institutions and other governing bodies behind the establishment of the museum where in fact the collection it houses are mostly about the memories of war. It should be noted that the display should accord to the supposed vision, mission and objectives of the museum so as to better reflect these in the exhibit. Objects of significance that are found in a museum should comply with the mission statement of the museum itself which is to trace the roots of the people of Sorsogon, since “sorsogon”/ “sosogon” means to find, to follow, to trace.(Jamoralin par.1 ). In addition, looking at the original proposed exhibit narrative, the present display of collections does not follow this. In the proposal the exhibit should be set from geologic history, pre- history and arrival of the West.This is clearly well-organized and the flow tells a story. Unfortunately, the present order or sequence of the display veers away from this and the collections seem to be patches in a quilt found in different areas. This should therefore be given attention so that re-organization, re-ordering or re-sequencing may be made. As in a story, a plot is followed. It is also worth knowing whose history and memory the museum projects. While it is acceptable that private collections donated to the museums should be acknowledged, it does not follow that these be labeled by their names or their clans’ names in bold prints instead of relevant information about the collection.Upon entering the museum, you will see the names of donors, sponsors and the people

behind the establishment of the museum and a brief history of the founding of the museum is posted at the information counter. What is lacking is the Curatorial brief or the write-up on the exhibit being displayed in the space.This is an information of great importance which should not be neglected. What is alarming here is that politicians or powerful influential figures are those whose collections are displayed in the museum. This may create apprehension that the museum is being used as a venue for other interests like collective memory of elite groups rather than promote culture and the arts. Besides , what significant or essential functions and purposes do these memorabilias have aside from being memoirs? If they serve the purpose of making alive the past,or as records of historical memory, then they must deliberately serve such purpose.Objectives need to be clear- cut.Memorabilias should reinforce awareness of culture and identity by reflecting the chronological historical events in the Sorsoganons’ life. However,in the case of those found in the museum, there is no linearity since these are curated based on hierarchy ,wherein objects are arranged on the basis of donor’s position in the society. For instance,an object such as the flat iron may have served personal purposes to the donor yet as to its relevance to the local folks’ culture is not clearly indicated. There should have been a caption or exhibit note that such had been used during a particular period in the history of Sorsogon. Thus,the audience would be informed , would become aware that in a particular time in the history of their place this was a significant piece.This creates a collective or communal memory among Sorsoganons instead of creating distance between the object and the people. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the issue of war as reflected by the collections particularly the photographs of popular figures in the community taken during the World War II. What do these project? Is it glorification of the so-called “heroes of war” or a way to repair loss of lives or a venue to make people become aware of the horrors of war? In a critical analysis of these photographs the horrors that war created are preserved but not vividly seen because of the heroic myth projected by the photos. Moreover the healing of a broken culture ruined by the war does not happen. The museum itself which is originally a hospital where the injured had been housed and treated seem not to become a symbol of healing due to the photographs that continuously depict the ruins and suffering caused by war. This may instill in people’s minds a history of ruins and a memory of forgetting instead of overcoming the pains of war.

According to Crane in her book on historical consciousness, “objects could speak to the viewers, if the viewers knew how to listen as well as see, and to view as well as read”(8). In the context of the idea that objects could clearly convey what is the story behind them is only effective if there is a clear narrative in the way they are curated. Even without historical texts/ wall texts. Furthermore, the photographs did not give a complete account of the periods in the history of Sorsogon but only fragments and parcels of it. Whereas the photo does not depict the context and the location in which the museum’s framework is really situated, rather it only shows the memory of the person within the frame of the image. There is juxtaposition in the curation since there were gaps in the different periods. This shows that historical memory when social traditions are broken and living contacts of the past are lost and all that remains are fragments or artifacts ( Crane 1377). So how can a people become whole when there is an absence of memory in the context of their culture in the displays. It is obvious that to fill this gap other objects have been installed such as the Solar System which gives rise to confusion and breaks the flow of the historical narrative of the collection. Intentional or not, it conveys a different context which is a deviation from the standard content of the museum. Correspondingly, a set of Hispanic costumes placed inside an antique chest adjacent to old chairs seem not to follow the framework of content. These become fillers for the gaps in the historical narrative of the space. If such would fill in the supposedly Spanish period, other objects that are placed beside the display of Chinawares from the Ming Dynasty should be relocated to comply with the linearity of the arrangement. Hence, the storyline of the historical narrative would be understandable. Putting a section which gives recognition to a particular organization seems not to match the framework of the content and form of the historical narrative. This is the section where trophies, plaques, banners and costumes garnered by the Sorsogon Arts Council and its affiliate group the Community-Based Theater Group (CBTG) are displayed. In a curator’s perspective, this creates an inquiry if such displays try to converse or intervene with the collection because no relevance or relatedness to the story of Sorsogon can be seen in this. There should have been a separate room for affiliated art organizations where they are recognized.There is nothing wrong in celebrating the achievements of a certain group as long as it is situated in the right context say, a section for hall of famers. Another section which calls for attention is the mini-visual arts gallery where displayed paintings of local artists are showcased where the subject of the paintings are out of context and are off-tangent

to the story of Sorsogon. It could have been more relevant if paintings of festivities, folk activities such as the Pantomina, oral traditions, have been depicted in the paintings. Such would have instilled in the people the pride of being Sorsoganons with celebrations, dances and traditions only distinct to them as a people. In conclusion, the Museum does not have much to offer for the enhancement of arts and culture Sorsogon at the moment. It should depict a celebration of the Sorsoganon’s culture, life and tradition.However, with the application of good curatorship and consultation with experts, these weaknesses would be overcome.The museum is still very young and lots of improvements must be made. What is important is that the museum provided all its effort in establishing a space for the people of Sorsogon to slowly encourage them to connect. If the museum complies with the original plans, visons and objectives of the late Reynaldo Jamoralin, the museum would really become a museum for the people and not as a mausoleum or a war memorial museum. As a whole, there is really a need to establish a firm foundation regarding its framework, curation and selection of collections to connect with the community. Let me close by basing on Haskins and DeRose’s view on commemoration in relation to the Sorsogon museum and its collection, that the importance of objects are not merely based on the experience of private people or remembrance of a collective event related to it that renders the objects public. Rather, it is the object’s connection to the community . This paper would therefore like to lay down the findings regarding the museum space that: 1.) The museum was established to be an educational facility for the people of Sorsogon in their enrichment of history and memory. 2.) The museum was revived to be monumental in its own way,and to be memorial in form due to its strategic location,its being ideal for exhibit display, for symposiums and other museum – related activities. 3.) There was only a certain point or period in history projected by the collections which resulted in the gaps. 4.) The collections showed over privileging of the past through the stories of the memories of certain political individuals in their own collections donated to the

museum. These reflect their own individual connection to a lost past that shaped their own histories rather than the people’s. 5.) The museum attempted to reconstruct / retell the story of Sorsogon through the flow of the exhibit but fails to connect with the community. 6.) The stories were mostly about the personal memories of the donors/collectors projected through the objects they turned-over to the space. 7.) The museum shaped the history of Sorsogon moslty through images of war, important people and patchwork of memories.These shapes of history can be seen through the content and form of the objects. 8.) The selection of objects that were included in the museum were not mostly reflective of the Sorsoganon History hence resulted into the perception of “their history and memory” not “our history and memories” it affected the way people perceive the collection as an individual memorabilia not as a part of the collective memory of the community. 9.) 10.) The museum has established a memory of the war and a history of the prominent people involved in the collection. The photographs of war heroes and political figures tried to repair the loss of lives /horrors of war. The collections do not address the effects of war but maintain the horrors of war.


As a curator, a critic, an artist and a pure Sorsoganon, the researcher with deep respect for the proponents of the establishment of the Sorsogon Museum would like to suggest and volunteer to write a clear historical narrative by arranging the displays according to the objects’ period to establish a clear starting point for visitors. Wall texts or Panel notes must be provided with a translation in Sorosoganon dialect or Bikol language understandable by the community. Exhibit catalogs stating the story of the museum and its collections may be printed or audio recordings installed explaining the themes of the object that would help visitors get a good experience in the museum may be utilized. An interview with the people from the community citing their reactions on the exhibit may also be installed for establishing communal solidarity.

Exhibit notes must be installed near the entrance so that visitors would be able to get the historical narrative being integrated in the collection. Proper framing, cataloguing and durability of photographs must be given full attention to preserve the aura and aesthetics in each images. Catalog entries, captions and labels must be placed together with the objects or displays it describe/correspond with. A careful source of ventilation, standard temperatue and lighting must be put into consideration so that the objects displayed would stand for a long time. It is with great respect to the pioneers of the museum in their good intentions to narrate to the people of Sorsogon their interpretation of history but criticisms in art exist and such are often the most that create discourse and debates among writers and artists. Thus, it is fitting to say that the creative and personal judgments, information and facts written and cited in this paper are the sole result of an extensive research and limited only to the framework and the scope of the topic. Extensive research and different frameworks are still needed/ may be utilized to have another perspective in studying museums. The data and information used by the researcher are carefully selected and will be

disseminated responsibly for future studies are in accordance to the rights of its owners and distribution policies. Therefore, it is with great responsibility and the necessity to involve or extend oneself to the community and let a selection of people from the community share their collective memories and lived experiences of the past and how they lived with it in the present . With this, we can have a shared cultural history as a people in the community thus we can show it in the display’s historical narrative differently just like what Reynaldo Jamoralin thought and did. A different approach and framework is needed to let people connect with the collection in a museum- that is to let them be involved with the curation by carrying their collective memories of the past.

WORKS CITED Books Crane, Susan. Collecting and Historical Consciousness in Early Nineteenth-Century Germany. New York: Cornell University Press, 2000. Huyssen, Andreas. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. CA: Stanford University Press, 2003 Articles/Journals/Magazines Crane, Susan. “Writing the Individual Back into Collective Memory”. The American Historical Review, Vol.102,No.5. Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 1997 DeRose, Justin and EkaterinaHaskins. “Memory, Visibility and Public Space”.Space and Culture,Vol.6, No.4 . CA:Sage Journals,2003. “Sorsogon Museum Project Proposal”.Sorsogon Museum. Sorsogon City SMHCI.“Sorsogon Museum amd Heritage Center Inc. NCCA Proposal”. Sorsogon Museum. Sorsogon City,Courtesy: Joseph John Perez, Spokes person (SAC) Internet Sources Dela Rama, Mike. “Bisita Museo sa Kasanggayahan', a glimpse of Sorsogon's past”.March 16, 2012. <>

Ferrer, Manny. “Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center”. Sorsogon Update.March 16, 2012. <> Guhit, Irma. “Sorsogon Museum,PDI lead ‘Read Along Program’”. Sorsogon City. Jamoralin, Reynaldo. “The Sorsogonanon’s Pride of Culture”. The Sorsogon Provincial Museum . March 16, 2012. <>

Perez, Joseph John. “SORSOGON MOURNS DEATH OF CULTURAL WORKER, ARTIST”.Sorsogon Arts Council.March 13, 2012. <>

“ History Experts to conduct free workshop in Sorsogon”. Bicol Today. March 16, 2012. <>

“Heritage Lectures, museum Visits highlight the Kasanggayahan 2010”. Sorsogon Guardian. March18,2012.< _visits_highlight_Kasanggayahan_2010> “Sorsogon Provincial Museum and Heritage Center”. Sorsogon City. March18,2012.<>

Interviews Abrigo, Allan. Art Teacher. Personal Interview. December 2011 Bausa, Joseph. Cultural Worker. Personal Interview. December 2011 Perez, Joseph John. Sorsogon Arts Council Spokesperson. February 2012