S. M. Damon Collection Gifted to Bishop Museum
Honolulu, HI…The Beneficiaries and the Trustees of the Estate of Samuel Mills Damon have announced the gift of a rare and valuable collection of more than 600 significant Hawaiian and Pacific artifacts to Bishop Museum, according to Tim Johns, Chief Operating Officer for the Estate of Samuel Mills Damon. The monetary value of the important collection is estimated at more than $1 million, but its historical and cultural significance is regarded as “priceless.”
Samuel Mills Damon (1841-1924) was a historical figure of great importance in Hawai‘i. Damon and Charles Reed Bishop (founder of Bishop Museum ) were friends and business partners in Bishop & Company, one of the era’s most successful banking ventures. Damon also served as Minister of Finance during the reign of King Kalākaua and through three separate incumbencies between 1889 and 1900 under the monarchy, the provisional government, and the republic.
Damon was also a founding trustee of Bishop Museum and helped develop the institution during its opening years, including the construction of Hawaiian Hall.
Damon died in 1924 after a long illness. His land holdings and other assets were placed in trust to be managed by the Trustees of the Estate of Samuel Mills Damon. Until recently, Damon’s estate was the fourth largest private landowner in Hawai‘i. On November 9, 2004 , Joan Damon Haig, the last living grandchild of Samuel Mills Damon, died. Her death marked the termination of the Estate of Samuel Mills Damon and was followed by a substantial distribution of trust corpus.
Among the properties held in trust was the long-term loan to Bishop Museum of the Damon Estate’s collection of 600+ artifacts. “In a most generous and magnanimous decision, all the Damon family members have agreed to make an outright gift of this historically important collection to the Bishop Museum and ultimately, to the all the people of Hawai‘i,” announced Bishop Museum President Bill Brown. “We are deeply grateful and humbled by the magnitude and cultural significance of this exquisite offering.”
According to Johns, the family members wanted to make a permanent gift of the artifacts to the Museum to ensure that the many items of historical, cultural, and naturalistic significance remain available to Museum professionals, students, and the public for subsequent generations. The Trustees of the Estate were extremely supportive of the family’s desire to make the gift. As a tribute to their common ancestor, the family has designated the collection as the S. M. Damon Collection.
“Over the years Bishop Museum has diligently maintained the integrity and condition of the S. M. Damon Collection consistent with the high standards observed by the Museum for all its collections,” said Johns.
The S. M. Damon Collection is noted for its vast examples of Hawaiian cultural objects and a wide variety of other objects of cultural or historical significance.
Museum Cultural Resources Vice President, Betty Lou Kam says of the collection, “It’s exciting to have the S. M. Damon Collection as a permanent part of the Museum. It not only provides a significant sampling of things Hawaiian, this gift is a statement of Mr. Damon’s interest in Hawaiian culture and his desire to preserve and provide these treasures for use by future generations for their enjoyment and instruction.”
The gift comes at a time when the Museum has recently undertaken a $20 million restoration and re-installation project in Hawaiian Hall where most of its Hawaiian and Polynesian cultural artifacts are displayed. The renovations, when completed, will create a state-of-the-art facility with upgraded security, conservation, and presentation methods for the Bishop Museum ’s unrivaled collection. World-renowned exhibition designer Ralph Appelbaum is leading the design team. Appelbaum has more than 90 projects to his credit including the Holocaust Museum in Washington , D.C. The new Hawaiian Hall is expected to open in December 2008. For more information about Bishop Museum or the S. M. Damon Collection and gift call 808.847.3511 or visit www.bishopmuseum.org.