HONOLULU (KHON2) — Step inside Iolani Palace and you’ll find a residence that is still fit for royalty. The building, both inside and out, is spotless thanks to a small team responsible for cleaning the 34,000 square feet property.
In addition to the massive size of the building, there are thousands of artifacts inside the now museum that need to be dust-free.
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Collections Manager Leona Hamano is in charge of maintaining all the objects inside Iolani Palace.
“I can’t stress more than to vacuum, vacuum, vacuum,” Hamano said explaining that vacuuming is key to preserving the valuables in the royal residence.
Chase Benbow, Collections Assistant, works side-by-side with Hamano. He also said vacuuming is a crucial part of the job.
“So it’s a very effective, preventative strategy not just making an object look nice, but preserving it in the long term to make sure that you don’t have a moth or silverfish that will literally eat the textile,” Benbow said.
Vacuuming the objects in Iolani Palace is not like vacuuming a residential carpet.
It’s back-breaking work and requires a tiny vacuum barely larger than an inch in size to get the job done.
Inch by inch, Hamano and Benbow clean Queen Kapiolani’s original bedspread every six months to a year.
“I’m lunging over the object and sometimes the vacuum hose can actually brush up against the objects and may snag. It might tear. Silk is very fragile,” Hamano said, explaining why it takes two people to clean the bedspread.
Removing dust with their specialized vacuum cleaner is critical because dust can also attract mold.
The cleaning team also uses small brushes to regularly dust every object, every statue, and every light fixture in the building.
“We usually will rotate the rooms. Every day there will be one room that is being cleaned,” Hamano said. “So we may start off here in the Grand Hall and then the next day we’ll move into the Blue Room, followed by the Dining Room and then the Throne Room,” Hamano said.
While Hamano and Benbow clean the objects inside the palace, there’s also someone responsible for cleaning the floors, windows and the rest of the building; Michael Sagucio.
“I love working here,” Housekeeper Michael Sagucio said. “It’s like my second home too now. I always take care every day.”
Sagucio takes pride in his work. His grandfather worked for Iolani Palace for three decades, and now he hopes to do the same.
For Sagucio, Benbow and Hamano, while the work can be tedious, it’s meaningful.
“Whether it’s cleaning or having the opportunity to tell a story about them ensures that when people come to the Palace, they’re not just looking at, you know, it’s not just a dusty museum, it’s filled with objects that continue with this living history of the monarchy,” Benbow said.
Cleaning Iolani Palace is not just a responsibility, it’s a privilege.
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“What I enjoy most I would suppose it’s like, ‘Wow! This is the Queen’s quilt!’ You know? and it’s, you know, taking it to the next generation into the next, is an honor,” Hamano said.