Kalaupapa Service Project Report

This report was written by Kristi Ausfresser, Museum Technician, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Members of the Association of Hawai’i Archivists traveled to Kalaupapa National Historical Park (KNHP) on the Island of Moloka’i on October 25 to 27, 2012. Honolulu Museum of Art Collections Manager Celeste Ohta and Archivist Monika Talaroc, University of Hawai’i at Manoa Hawaiian Collection Librarian Dore Minatodani, Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History Archivist Leilani Marshall and I traveled from Hawai’i Island, Oahu, and California to assist with curatorial and exhibition projects.

We unpacked and moved exhibit panels from crates, which had been stored long-term in an outside structure, to temporary storage in the shoemaker’s house next to park headquarters. We assessed the panels and discarded ones that were damaged from pest, temperature and humidity. Pests, found both dead and alive, in the crates include termites, geckos, centipedes, scorpions and mongoose. It was an exhausting, difficult job….but someone had to do it.

In preparation for the Rededication of the newly restored Paschoal Hall event on Monday, October 29, 2012, AHA ladies cleaned exhibit cases, installed objects, cleaned the projection room, folded pamphlets and prepared framed photos of Paschoal Halls to give as gifts. U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye would be present at this event because he was instrumental in the rehabilitation of Paschoal community hall.

KHNP Museum Curator T. Scott Williams was a joy to work with. He was respectful, positive and dedicated to his job. He patiently answered our questions, provided instructions of the tasks we were to perform, and gave a tour around the peninsula to see the sights and share tidbits that seemed like gems of an unknown life. During the tour we stopped at Kauhako Crater, Kalawao old settlement, St. Philomena Catholic Church, Old Ladies’ Cave, and Moloka’i Light Station also known as Kalaupapa lighthouse. Kirk and Kellie are the two museum technicians at Kalaupapa and although we got to work with them on Thursday, they were away for the duration of our time there. The Hansen’s disease residents were also off island during our stay. They were on a trip to Rome with the Catholic Church and would not return until after our departure.

Gloria’s bar was a lively place to talk story pau hana, get a drink or snack, and catch up on the daily gossip. The bar was run by Rita, Gloria’s daughter, who eventually opened up to us and was very sweet. There were some locals and roofing contractors at the bar who we talked story with. Dore, Celeste and Leilani enjoyed a refreshing swim on the first day at Kalaupapa Landing; every other day the current was too rough with white caps to swim. The water was a beautiful sight to look at and to listen to.

On Friday night we had a bbq with Scott and KHNP Cultural Anthropologist Ka’ohulani McGuire at Ocean View pavilion on the coast with a beautiful sunset and ate an ono dinner of ribs, chicken, hot dogs, Asian coleslaw, potato and macaroni salad and of course, Celeste’s famous pumpkin crunch. We talked story and I probed Scott and Ka’ohulani for ghost stories of the buildings in Kalaupapa, with the exception of the visitor’s quarters because we wanted to sleep that night. It was interesting to learn that almost every house at Kalaupapa has a ghost story. Scott and Ka’ohulani were open, friendly and willing to share their knowledge and experiences at Kalaupapa with us.

The story I take home with me is that the first residents to Kalawao, which is the old settlement on the peninsula, had a difficult time living here because the lack of doctors, medical supplies, sanitation, and infrastructure. As life on the peninsula became more organized and developed, patients did not want to be sent to Kalaupapa out of fear, isolation and loneliness but once they arrived and settled in, they grew to view the other residents as family and love Kalaupapa as their home, never wanting to permanently leave.

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