The Hawaii State Archives is a division of the Department of Accounting and General Services within the State of Hawaii and is made up of two branches: the Records Management Branch and the Historical Records Branch. The Historical Records Branch is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., except State holidays.
Located on the Iolani Palace grounds, the Hawaii State Archives sits amongst looming banyan trees, between the Palace and the State Capitol building. The current Archives building was built in 1953; and although the old Archives building still remains, it is used as an administrative office for the Friends of Iolani Palace.
The Public Archives of Hawaii, as it was first known, was established by legislation in 1905. It opened to the public in 1906. After many years of collecting and acquiring material from various territorial departments and private donations, the original building could no longer hold the vast amount of material being transferred; and the need for a bigger and more modern space was required.
The new building erected behind the original one and broke ground in 1952; it opened to the public in 1953. Since then, there have been improvements to the building, including adding an air conditioning system.
As time progressed, new technology and archival standards were adopted. The mission of the Archives is to collect, preserve and make available to the public government records of permanent and historic value.
The Archives has more than 11,000 cubic feet of material, dating from the Kingdom to the current legislative session. Individuals may research a variety of subjects, such as genealogy, land, or the latest Legislative bills.
Public Use of Archives
The Archives has a reading room where researchers can look at requested materials, as well as browse through finding aids and indexes. Unlike a library, doing research at the Archives requires some knowledge of your subject or person of interest; given that most government records are arranged by the agency, organization, or individual that created them and not by the subject or necessarily by the person it is about. However, there are reference staff available to assist and guide you with your research needs.
The reading room also has several microfilm readers and one microfilm scanning station. Some materials are only available on microfilm due to their fragile condition and/or is the only format for those records. There are 3 computer stations that patrons can also use to view what has been digitized by the Archives and its online catalogs.
Visitors who are interested in visiting the Archives must register and check in at the circulation counter. You will be greeted by staff and asked to sign in and present a valid ID. The Archives has lockers that you may use to store personal belongings. You are allowed to bring in laptops, but there are limited outlets. For more information visit: Public Use of Archives.
If you can’t physically visit the Archives, there are some excellent online resources on their website. For example, there are various indexes and records that have been scanned, such as the Hawaiian Genealogy Book Index, the Mahele Book, and Vital Statistics Collection, that you can view in Digital Collections. You’ll also find various Research Aides to help you with your project.
Along with the digital resources available on the website, the Hawaii State Archives is in the process of developing a Digital Archives to not only enhance and preserve these digitized materials, but also born-digital materials that are deemed permanent and/or historically significant records from state agencies. As technology and the needs of the state and the public to access records change and grow, the Hawaii State Archives is working toward providing this important service. You can follow the progress of this initiative and other Archive News online.
Sharing Hawaii’s Past
The Hawaii State Archives is an invaluable resource to the people of Hawaii, as well scholars who come from all over the world to conduct research about Hawaii.
Records at the Archives are unique and, for the most part, are only found here. From original documents signed by the monarchy to marriage licenses, or letters to the governor of Hawaii, these records shed light on the people and events of not only Hawaii’s past, but tell its history to current and future generations.
Visit the Hawaii State Archives website for more information!
~Ju Sun Yi