Curator’s Corner – Stone Money

CC Jan Robyn Photo 1- Yap money - Edit 1

Yap Stone Money. Donated by Civic Action Team 6207 (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Collection

The U.S. Navy Seabees have served on all seven continents and on many of the islands in the Pacific beginning in World War II. As Seabees were stationed all across the world on deployment, they returned home with souvenirs from a variety of communities; many which have since been donated to the Seabee Museum to preserve their stories.

CC Jan Robyn Photo 2- Map of Yap

Map of Yap

One of these stories and artifacts comes from the Island of Yap that was donated by the Civic Action Team 6207. The Island of Yap is located in the Caroline Islands of Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean and is approximately 300 miles northeast of Palau.

The Civic Action Team (CAT) was a program created by the Department of Defense in 1969, as a continuation of a joint partnership between Palau and the U.S. since WWII. The CAT mission is to provide a continuous favorable U.S. military presence, transfer technical skills to local residents, and partner with Palau in basic infrastructure development. The first seven teams deployed in 1969 were by Navy Seabee teams.

CC Jan Robyn Photo 3- CAT Logo

Civic Action Team Detachment Logo (Courtesy of the Department of State)

On one of the first deployments of Seabee Civic Action Team 6207, they brought back a curious circular stone disk carved out of limestone. Theses limestone disks are called Rai and are used as a form of currency on the Island of Yap. Of the 4 pieces of Yap money we have in our museum collection, this piece of limestone money weighs 50 pounds, is 12 inches in diameter, 3.5 inches thick with the hole in the middle measuring 4 inches across.

The limestones that the Rai are made of are not native to Yap and were quarried on several of the Micronesian Islands. Palau was the main source of limestone which was transported back to Yap on rafts for use as currency. The oral history of this tradition goes back many centuries.

Rai comes in a variety of sizes. Some are as large as cars. Most Rai do not actually change hands physically due to their size, but it is known who the owner is, similar to online banking today. The value of a specific Rai stone is based not only on its size and craftsmanship, but also on its history. Each stone was given a name, usually that of the sea warrior who brought it back.

Nowadays, the U.S. dollar is used for most transactions, but the Rai is still used for large transactions, such as a daughter’s dowry.

The CAT Program is still running with civic action teams operating on 6-months assignments and rotating between the Army, Air Force, and Navy Seabee teams.

Come visit the Seabee Museum on Tuesday March 1st at 2pm to learn more about Yap money and see other fascinating treasures and stories the Seabees have to share at our Curator’s Corner event.

Robyn profile pic

Meet the Curator: Robyn King earned her Bachelors in History and Anthropology from the State University of New York at Oneonta. She has experience working at State Museums, Historic Sites, the National Parks Service, and most recently the Navy. She’s an expert in collection management, and has worked closely with both natural and cultural collections. Robyn loves all museums and sharing her love of history. When’s she not working, she’s volunteering her time with the National Peace Corps Association, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from West Africa.

 

 

 

Bet You Didn’t Know: Facts About the Seabee Museum

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum is a place for CEC officers and Seabees to gather and be honored for their amazing service to our country. The museum houses and exhibits hundreds of artifacts and thousands of linear feet of archival material in order to tell these stories. But did you ever think about the museum itself? How did it all start? And how did we get to where we are? Here are some interesting facts to think about the next time you visit your Seabee Museum.

Why is the museum located in Port Hueneme? At the end of WWII thousands of Seabees were returning home and on their way they passed through the Naval Construction Battalion Center located in, you guessed it, Port Hueneme. The Seabees brought with them various historical souvenirs, mementos and other paraphernalia. But rather than complete the lengthy government paperwork process required to take the items home with them, most Seabees gave up, leaving the items at the base.

Photo 1 Original exhibit 1947

Original Exhibit – 1947

Who came up with the idea of creating a museum? That honor belongs to Commander Neil Kingsley, who in 1946, then Office in Charge of the Training and Distribution Center (TADCEN), conceived the idea. He consulted Commodore Beauford W. Finks, senior officer at NCBC, who immediately supported the idea. Commodore Finks authorized Commander Kingsley to obtain more Seabee related items, including dioramas that were used as training tools. Once more items were collected the museum was official established and the Seabee Museum came into being.  

 

Ingi Blog Photo 2 training tool Jan 2016

Diorama used a training tool for WWII, currently in museum storage.

Is the Seabee Museum the oldest Navy museum? Not quite, the museum is the second oldest in the U.S. Navy museum system. Second only to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Have Seabees ever worked at the museum? Yes! The Seabees themselves have always played an integral part of the Seabee Museum. In February 1965, the first permanent staff of the museum included a curator, an assistant curator and three Seabees. To this day the museum relies on the expertise of current and former Seabees in the form of volunteers and guides.

Ingi Blog Photo 3 old gift shop Jan 2016

Picture of the old museum gift shop.

When did the museum move into its current location? The museum finally moved off base and into a new state-of-the-art facility, complete with new exhibits and professional staff in 2011.

For more information on the history of the museum, please visit our expanded museum history section located here: http://www.history.navy.mil/museums/seabee/history.htm.

For information on museum hours, exhibits, and events, please visit our site at:  http://www.history.navy.mil/museums/Seabee/seabee_museum.htm

We look forward to seeing you!

Ingi House

Meet the Archivist: Ingi House

Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from the University of Kansas and M.L.S. from Emporia State University. After working for the Dole Institute of Politics she moved to the East Coast. In D.C. she worked at the National Archives and Records Administration and then at the Defense Acquisition University where she became a Certified Archivist. Her continued enjoyment of military history lead her to switching coasts and coming to work for the Seabee Museum where she is collection manager for the archives and records manager liaison.