Belau National Museum is an important archive of valuable scientific specimens and data relating to the culture and natural history of Belau. The museum's archives of specimens and literature are an important national resource for the support of educational, cultural and conservation programs.
In this context, the mission of the Natural History Section is to catalog and preserve the terrestrial biological diversity of the islands with special emphasis on plants and animals that have cultural significance.
The Natural History Section of the Belau National Museum is a newly established department and is still in the process of setting up the proper equipment and support staff. In the meantime, it presently has two staff already on board, an ethnobotanist and an entomologist.
The aim of the Belau National Museum Research Library is to collect, preserve, and make accessible to the public, documents and literature about Palau and Micronesia and to a lesser extent the Pacific. As collections in the library are sensitive to the elements, the Belau National Museum Library is not a circulation library, but welcomes visitors to visit and research during museum hours.
The library holds over 5,000 volumes, as well as numerous periodi¬cals, maps, posters, research papers and articles. Rare books include original volumes by Augustin Kramer, a German anthropologist who documented Palauan life and culture in the early 1900's. Other rare materials include Account of the Pelew Islands, Japanese language books, and original field notes.
Art & Material Culture
There are roughly 4,500 objects and art collections relating to anthropology, art, history and natural history. Most of these collections are from Palau, Micronesia and the Pacific. Acquisitions are mainly obtained by donations and occasionally by purchase.
Palauan beads and shell money, miniature replica of houses, canoe houses and canoes; domestic utensils, weapons, tools and etc. are part of the anthropological collections. Original pieces of art works of different media can be seen around the Museum. Most presented media is watercolor and oil. The contents represent works of Palauan and Non-Palauan artists bearing relationship to Palauan culture. Portraits, scenes of daily life in Palau, building, landscapes, and contemporary art of storyboards are some of the many art collections. In the collection of history are the things relatively of recent past as distinct from ancient times and would include Japanese sports pennant, bottles and jars, WW II war mementos, Vietnam War trophy, and many more. Natural History collections include rock core, wood samples, turtle shell plates, skull and carapace, whale vertebra and bones.
Belau National Museum Media is the Media Archive for the Republic of Palau. BNM received the old reel tapes from Domestic Affairs and was able to preserve the Palau String Band Recordings of the 1960’s. Legends of Palau by Ben Yobech and the two versions of Captain Wilson’s story narrated by Ben Yobech and Daniel Ngirairikl. Through the pro-bono work of Jim Geselbracht, the tapes were restored and preserved for the BNM Media Archive.
As of April 2018, a total of 430,339 items have been digitized and stored in the BNM Media Collection. The BNM Archive consists of slide photos, print photos, negative photos awaiting digitization, audio recordings, videos, slide films, and archived publications.
Highlights from the 2017 Report
- Palau was put on the World Map in the capacity to document and share biodiversity on a landscape and seascape scale at the national and global scale.
- Community outreach in the form of Bird Watching is hosted every first Saturday of the month at Long Island Park. This activity is for enthusiasts to learn what species of birds are around us daily and to help the Palau Bird Records Committee update their monthly count.
- The Natural History Section opened a new Exhibit on the Palau National Marine Sanctuary with a Wall Display, a copy of the PNMS Legislation, a signature page of its supporters and a TV monitor displaying the PNMS official documentary. The PNMS Exhibit was put up by former CAT Team (NAVY) in May 2016 with the assistance of the Palau Legacy Team and Belau National Museum staff.
- BNM Director was designated to be a Governing Board Member of the International Research Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia- Pacific (IRCI) for a term of two years commencing in October 2015 to September 2017 and was again renewed for two more years from 2017-2019.
- Kramer’s 7 Volume “Ethnography of Palau” Publication was released in hard copy and DVD format.
- BNM Board of Trustees contracted local artist and painter, Dave Ngirailemesang, to paint a mural on the museum entrance way depicting “Ked er a Babeldaob”.
- Belau National Museum began a weekly talk show dubbed “Museum Hour” every Thursday morning from 9:15 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Eco Paradise (government-owned station). Approaching its second year anniversary, the talk show’s main goal is to introduce the general public to BNM and its work. During the show, a song, chant, legend or other media pieces are played. Interviews with BNM Board Members, staff, volunteers or community members are also featured.
Ethnobotany of Palau
Belau National Museum is currently working to publish a new book entitled “Ethnobotany of Palau”. This publication has been in the works for many years now and is hoped to be released early 2019. Reaching its final stages of edits, BNM has worked with many local experts, resident and visiting botanists, government organizations, community members and volunteers to compile information for this book.
Ethnobotany of Palau will highlight the relationship between plants, people and culture of Palau. Overviews of the Biodiversity and Human Health in Micronesia/Plants and People of Micronesia Program along with Palau’s geography, history and vegetation types are introduced. A closer look at Palau’s ancient history and how land use changes occurred over time is also featured. The cycle of life- from birth to death- is showcased especially describing how plants were and are still used in daily life as food, shelter, medicine, in ritual and the arts. The bai, different types of fishing methods, taro, the traditional ethnomedical system, the extraction methods of natural products through standardized laboratory procedures and through local traditional processes are covered as well. An encyclopedic compendium of the local names and uses of plants- based on five years of intensive fieldwork, interviews and literature review- is cited. Lastly, an updated checklist of native and introduced flora building is shown.
Palau Bird Records Committee
On December 8, 2014, the Board of Trustees of Belau National Museum established the Palau Bird Records Committee (PBRC) as a Committee of the museum’s National Program for Monitoring Forest and Coastal Birds. The geographic scope of the Committee is all islands that are part of the Republic of Palau and the waters within 200 nautical miles of the coast of the Palau Islands. The mission of the Committee is to review noteworthy reports of field observations of Palau’s birds for the purpose of maintaining an authoritative Palau Islands Bird List and building a broader understanding of the avifauna of Palau. The PRBC is the first, and so far only, BRC in Micronesia and the second BRC in the tropical Pacific (Hawaii has the other). Situated in the western equatorial Pacific and within the East Asian/Australasian Flyway (EAAF), Palau has the richest bird diversity of any island group in Micronesia (Wiles 2005). Establishment of the PBRC was motivated by the entry into force of the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals in the Republic of Palau and the designation of the Northern Peleliu Lkes in Palau as a global Important Bird Area and a regionally (Oceania) significant migratory shorebird site (BirdLife International 2015).
State of Palau’s Birds 2017
The 2017 edition of The State of Palau’s Birds, a book produced by the Belau National Museum with support from Palau Conservation Society (PCS) is the 8th annual publication presenting a stunning visual display of a few of the many resident and migratory bird species of Palau. The book showcases the increasingly important role that Palau plays in supporting the migration of birds as they fly through the East Asian/Australasian Flyway (EAAF) and stopover in Palau, especially on the sand flats of Peleliu Island. This was one of the last publications spearheaded by the late Alan R. Olsen, BNM’s longtime entomologist and Natural History Manager.
iBird and eBird
Through the amazing work of the BNM ornithology team, information about the resident and migratory bird species of Palau can be accessed online on two platforms: iBird and eBird.
iBird is a consolidated app (available on App Store and Google Play) that shows a database of bird species present in North America, United Kingdom, Ireland, Hawaii and Palau. There is a version of this application that can show you Hawaii and Palau bird species only for a cheaper price. It offers a Time-of-Day in-app feature that lets you search for birds by activity levels during day or night. The Birds Around Me (BAM) feature can show species in your GPS location and help you identify birds just like birding experts. A collection of audio recordings and illustrations are also available for further identification help.
eBird Mobile (available on App Store and Google Play) makes it easy to record the birds you see in the field, and seamlessly link these observations with eBird--a global online database of bird records used by hundreds of thousands of birders around the world. This free resource makes it easy to keep track of what you see, while making your data openly available for scientific research, education, and conservation. The "Record as you go" functionality is designed for incremental list keeping and counting while birding. The app’s full offline functionality enables use in places with limited or no Internet connection. eBird Mobile is directly linked to the website- https://ebird.org.