Repository Spotlight: Lyman Museum & Mission House in Hilo, Hawai’i

AHA is pleased to introduce you to another repository featured in the 5th Edition of the Directory of Historical Records Repositories in Hawai’i.  This month’s pick is the Lyman Museum Archives.   Lyman Archives includes historical documents, books, maps, ephemera, and photographic collections.

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Lyman Museum Archivist, Miki Bulos, shared details of the current JOHN HOWARD PIERCE PHOTO IDENTIFICATION PROJECT:

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John Howard Pierce, Courtesy of Lyman Museum Archives

The Pierce Photo Identification Project is an effort currently underway in the Lyman Museum Archives to identify the tens of thousands of photographs in the Pierce Collection.

Pierce, a former Hawaii Tribune-Herald reporter and Lyman Museum curator, was an avid photographer who meticulously documented his beloved home of Hawai‘i Island in the mid-twentieth century, a pivotal period defined and galvanized by the admission of Hawai‘i into the United States in 1959.



The collection contains Pierce’s surviving body of work—an estimated 50,000 photographic prints and negatives, the bulk of which are from the late 1950s through the early 1970s.  The collection’s significance lies in the years covered and the variety of subjects captured. As the archives processes the collection, what becomes evident is that during a historically important period of tremendous growth and change—those years around statehood—Pierce and his camera bore witness to nearly all forms of community activity conducted on Hawai’i Island.

Lehua Kamalamalama and her Rosettes welcoming the SS Monterey on maiden voyage, Port of Hilo, October 1961. Modern day Theresa Sharon Moke Becktel and Sandra Moke Lee, pictured in the front, were identified through the Pierce Photo ID Project and pose next to their old photo. Courtesy of Lyman Museum Archives.

It is this expansive and comprehensive view of Hawai‘i Island that makes the collection not only an invaluable contribution to the community’s story, but an invaluable contribution to the state’s historical record. They provide a view to the recent past, revealing a community ambitiously growing, changing, and constructing a new future; remembering and reclaiming its traditions; and savoring the simple pleasures of everyday life.

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Welcoming the USS Walker bearing gift of fifty-star flag, Port of Hilo, July 1958. Benny Kahaka (musician on far left) and Lovey Mae Akamu Scott (center) were identified through the Pierce Photo ID Project. Scott poses next to her photo along with Kahaka’s daughter, Barbara Lake. Courtesy of Lyman Museum Archives.

Unfortunately, almost none of the photos in the collection have any information beyond date, if that.  The Photo ID Project is a multi-pronged strategy to recruit community help to solve these mysteries.  The recent Pierce Photograph Exhibit was a result of this project—over fifty identified photos were on display.

Unidentified photos have been shared with the public via Hawaii Tribune-Herald and the Kama‘aina Shopper, the Pierce photo exhibit, the Lyman Museum website, museum-hosted Photo ID Days and community outreach.  Of the almost 800 photos made available to the public, approximately 450 have been identified (at least partially).

Paul Kodani poses next to his photo. Kodani was identified through the Pierce Photo ID Project as the boy paddling in a homemade canoe, Wailoa Estuary, late 1950s. Courtesy of Lyman Museum Archives.

Visit Lyman Museum on-line to see if you can identify some photos and to learn of additional Research Collections.  The Pierce photo exhibit will soon be available on-line!

One comment

  1. […] The Association of Hawai’i Archivists (AHA) is highlighting local repositories on its blog each month. This month AHA has chosen to spotlight a repository that was one of ʻUluʻulu’s partners in our HKG Pilot Project – the Lyman Museum & Mission House in Hilo, Hawaiʻi. AHA’s post details the museum’s Pierce Photo Identification Project which has helped Lyman to successfully identify about 450 of the almost 800 unidentified photos they’ve made publicly available. According to the post, the Photo ID Project is “a multi-pronged strategy to recruit community help to solve these mysteries.” Read more on AHA’s Repository Spotlight. […]

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