Legal History Preservation for Hawai’i and Pacific Peoples



By Ellen-Rae Cachola, William S. Richardson School of Law Library Archives Manager

The William S. Richardson School of Law Library is working on ways to get under-heard Hawaiian and Pacific Island legal history accessible.  We are currently processing the papers of the Professor of Law Jon Van Dyke, who passed away in 2011.  Professor Van Dyke wrote the book Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawaiʻi?  In Crown Lands, he used legal resources to answer the question of who owns the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Crown Lands following the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893.  This was just one among many of  Van Dyke’s works that contributed to the foundations of Native Hawaiian, Human Rights, Environmental and Ocean Laws.

Through the support of the Hawaiʻi Council of Humanities, The University of Hawaiʻi School of Law hired a graduate student from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library Science Program, Casie Azuma, to help process the papers for preservation. She recently reflected on her experience:

“Since I started working on Jon Van Dyke collection, I am learning what he has done, and what kind of influence he had around the world with his knowledge and expertise… I am learning about his network range and influence…and who has contacted him for his expertise in each respective topic.”

Political Science undergraduate student, Kaley Vatalaro, also helps to process Van Dyke’s papers. She currently interns at the Public Defender’s office. Kaley shares:

“One of my favorite aspects about archiving the Jon Van Dyke collection is learning about the history of so many places that get very little attention in our high school history books, such as the Mariana Islands, Palau (and other islands part of the Micronesia region), Kalama Atoll, and so many more…Jon Van Dyke’s dedication to advancing the interests of indigenous peoples should never go unnoticed, which is precisely why this archiving project is so important.”

Lastly, Taylor Brack, a second year William S. Richardson School of Law student, also assists the team in processing the Van Dyke papers.  In her words:

“It has been my first experience with archiving and I have learned a lot–not just about the archiving process, but also about our beloved Professor Van Dyke and his work. I got to see all the ins-and-outs of extensive legal research and how complex, well-written books and papers can have humble beginnings on yellow legal pads or even hotel stationery. I got to see what collaboration and correspondence between two professionals looks like. So far, I have read about the development of the judiciary in the Federated States of Micronesia, the forced abdication of Queen Liliuʻokalani, and the controversy surrounding the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument which are all topics of which I had no prior knowledge. I am excited to continue learning as I complete this project.”

The Jon Van Dyke Archive is a rich resource for research in the legal history of Hawaii and other Pacific Island nations.  This collection exemplifies how people’s relationships, histories and practices influenced the unfolding of our contemporary Pacific society.

Visit the William S. Richardson School of Law Library Archives portal ( to search and browse our collection finding aids and indexes.  And, watch your inbox for a message about the launching of Jon Van Dyke Archives in February 2018.

Archival websites


Honolulu Fire Museum Tour

On June 18th, AHA members visited the Honolulu Fire Museum and were given an excellent tour of the facilities while learning more about the history of firefighting in Hawaiʻi by Captain Kevin Mokulehua and his staff. The museum is located at the former site of the historic Kakaʻako Fire Station, built in 1929, and is next door to the Honolulu Fire Dept.’s new headquarters building, which was completed in 2006. The Honolulu Fire Dept. was established in 1850 by King Kamehameha III, and King Kalākaua was an active member of Hawaiian Engine Company No. 4, an all-Hawaiian fire company formed in 1861. The museum does have a small archives, but it was not ready for us to view. Nevertheless, we did see some great photographs and documents from the Fire Dept. that were on display in the museum. Check out some highlights below:


Engine Company No. 4 was originally an all-Hawaiian Company fire station. This image on display at the fire museum depicts the station draped in black bunting after the passing of King Kalākaua in 1891.


HFD Accounting Book, 1892-1893




HFD log book, opened to the infamous date of Dec. 7, 1941. To this day, in keeping with tradition, each station of the Honolulu Fire Dept. keeps a daily hand-written log.


Capt. Mokulehua describing the Gamewell fire alarm system used by the Honolulu Fire Dept. from 1903-1979. Pull boxes placed in each neighborhood were connected to all fire stations and used to contact the fire dept. via an alarm gong that would identify the location of the box.


This photo shows the card catalog system the fire dept. used to determine which station would be dispatched to the fire, depending on its location.


Mahalo nui to Captain Mokulehua and the other firefighters for an excellent tour of the museum!

The Honolulu Fire Museum is open to the public for free guided tours every third Saturday of every month. Go to their website to reserve a spot on the tour.

Repository Spotlight: Hawai`i Museums Association Conference 2016: “Places (S)Pacific”


The Hawai`i Museums Association  Conference was held a short distance from Kaua`i’s Waimea Canyon. Photo by Gavin Mičulka.

by Gavin Mičulka, HMA Member, Kona Historical Society Assistant Program Director.

Over a three-day weekend in April, I joined a group of thirty other museum professionals at the historic CCC Camp in Kaua`i’s Kōke`e State Park for the Hawai`i Museums Association 2016 Conference, “Place (S)Pacific.” At 4,000 feet above sea level in the Island’s mountainous mesic forests, Kōke`e is a short distance from Kaua`i’s famed Waimea Canyon and the Nā Pali Coast. Rustic accommodations, cold nights, and a lack of Wi-Fi and cell phone service were a stark contrast from my daily routine. But the incredible setting and intimate surroundings provided the perfect place to discuss the shared interests of Hawai`i’s museum and collections community.

The restored CCC Camp at Kōke`e. Photos by HMA and Gavin Mičulka.

Since 1968, the Hawai`i Museums Association has served the state’s museums, historic sites, gardens, and heritage organizations, which today number nearly 100. Conference attendees, many of whom are also active AHA members, came from several islands and represented organizations such as the Bishop Museum, Hawaii State Art Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu Mayor’s Office of Culture & the Arts, `Iolani Palace, Kīlauea Lighthouse, Kōke`e Museum, Kona Historical Society, Lahaina Restoration Foundation, Lyon Arboretum, Mānoa Heritage Center, Shangri La Center for Islamic Arts and Culture, and more. Each member brought insights reflective of the museum profession in general, but also unique to the specific interests of Hawai`i. These organizations embody a strong sense of place and share authentic stories that celebrate Hawai`i’s diverse cultural and natural heritage.

HMA’s 2016 conference allowed us to discuss the methods and techniques used in the museum field to share these place-specific stories. A keynote address by Dr. Keao NeSmith, author, Hawaiian translator, and University of Hawaii at Mānoa Instructor introduced the place that is Kaua`i. NeSmith’s ongoing efforts seek to use various media to reintroduce the Island’s traditional place names. By educating visitors and locals alike, such efforts foster stewardship for the environment and the stories so closely tied to place.


NeSmith has received accolades for his Hawaiian translations of  literary classics

Other local presenters spoke about their roles at Kaua`i’s cultural and historic sites. Aletha Kaohi, Manager of the West Kaua`i Visitor Center, spoke about Hawaiian perspectives of the Russian Fort Elizabeth. These perspectives, richly tied to personal stories and family traditions, illustrate how certain sites can manifest multiple senses of place. While a single perspective might be presented via road signs, maps, and brochures, efforts like those of Aletha help bring in the perspectives of Native Hawaiians. Frank O. Hay and Jim Ballantine shared the efforts of Kaua`i non-profit organizations to preserve and repurpose a couple of the Island’s historical sites. Frank’s organization, Hui o Laka, has helped preserve the historic CCC Camp for more than 60 years. Through the CCC Camp, Hui o Laka preserves and shares the stories of the young men that contributed to area’s forest management and conservation in the 1930s and 1940s. While maintaining its historical integrity, Hui o Laka use the renovated CCC Camp to host volunteer groups, researchers, and educational groups.

Jim’s Hale Puna organization recently acquired the Gulick Rowell Mission House and has initiated efforts to restore the home to its early 1900s condition. Today, the home’s grounds are maintained as a community garden and it is hoped that a restored home will serve as a community center. Aletha, Frank, and Jim showed how important a “sense of place” is to local people. They also reminded us of the desire to share this sense of place with the world and create more meaningful experiences for Hawai`i’s visitors. The conference’s theme of retaining a  “sense of place,” provides not only a connection to Hawai`i’s culture, which is so tied to the land, but also contributes to the preservation of place and community identity as we, as collections professionals, find new and engaging ways to share our collections and sites.

Jenny Leung, the Collection Manager at Mānoa Heritage Center took away much from these presentations,  “The HMA conference is an opportunity to listen, share and collaborate with our peers who work in diverse kinds of museums/cultural organizations, many of whom we often regard as being in “other departments” beyond collections management – educators, registrars, exhibit designers, directors, etc. The Kauai conference encouraged our staff who attended to work more integratively on projects within our organization, as well as reach out to other very different HMA members for solutions.”


Aletha Kaohi shares with HMA Members Native Hawaiian perspectives of the Russian Fort Elizabeth. Photo by Mina Elison.


A historic photo of the CCC Camp at Kōke`e. Image courtesy of Hui o Laka.

Other presenters allowed us to take a broader look at the needs of Hawai`i’s museums, their staff, and their visitors. Museums reflect the people they serve and more often visitors seek hands-on experiences. Bishop Museum’s Michael Wilson shared how interactive exhibits and games nurture a deeper level of learning and create more meaningful and memorable experiences for visitors. Michael’s presentation was itself interactive and encouraged conference attendees to create their own games, using simple instructions, to convey information. Technology will continue to play an evolving role in our field. The staff of the Kōke`e Museum showed us how GPS technology can play an important role in how we explore our sites and even maintain our collections. Discussions illustrated how GPS technology, combined with software like PastPerfect, can be used to geotag collections that are often spread across a wide area. Volunteers can regularly be the heart and soul of museums and their programs. Seasoned museum veterans Victoria Wichman of Kaua`i State Parks and Jill Laughlin of Lyon Arboretum shared their experiences in attracting and maintain volunteers, thus increasing museum productivity and advocacy.


Conference attendees visit the Kōke`e Museum.

Roundtable discussions allowed HMA members to discuss the challenges faced as museum professionals. Topics included conservation and collections care, professional development, marketing and promotion, volunteer training and management, and fundraising. “From a collections stand point, the HMA conference roundtable was an invaluable opportunity to talk story with colleagues who work in varying capacities with collections within a diverse range of museums and organizations in Hawai’i,” said Mina Elison, Curator at Kona Historical Society. “From collections of large-scale public art to biological specimens, not only could we honestly discuss our challenges of handling and curating these objects, participants were able to share some ‘victories’ and new strategies for success.” Roundtable discussions reminded attendees of the networks available to support Hawai`i’s museum professionals.


HMA conference attendees visit the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Like AHA, the Hawai`i Museums Association is a community of deeply passionate professionals committed to the idea that stories do not necessarily have endings. We are meant to preserve and share those stories in a manner that is respectful, meaningful, and creative. Our shared work ensures that the stories of Hawai`i’s kupuna will be here for generations to come. Professional organizations such as AHA and HMA remind us that, although an ocean may separate us from some of the larger professional organizations on the mainland, we are not alone. We can rely upon active networks of Hawai`i professionals deeply committed to a set of shared interests and values. Our work may be challenging and ever-changing, but thanks to AHA and HMA we are able to build upon the ideas of those that came before us.


Conference attendees visit the Loy McCandless Marks Collection of Rare Books at the National Tropical Botanical Garden


Repository Spotlight: Hawaii State Archives


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.

Hawaii State Archives - Historical Records Branch

Hawaii State Archives – Historical Records Branch

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.

Old Archives Building (photo courtesy of the Hawaii State Archives c.1905)

Old Archives Building
Photo courtesy of the Hawaii State Archives c.1905.

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.


The largest collections are government records; but there are also maps, photographs and manuscript collections.  Images courtesy of the Hawaii State Archives.

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.

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.

5_registration computerVisitors 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.

Online Access

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.

What’s New?

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.


Archivist Alice Tran conducting an orientation on doing research at the Archives to students and staff from the University of Tokyo.  Photo courtesy of Ju Sun Yi.

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
































Repository Spotlight: Jean Charlot Collection

Concluding our conversation about Jean Charlot, the scope of his collection, and the deep relationships he forged, Curator Bronwen Solyom stated “I cannot think of a thing the man wasn’t interested in.” Distinguished as one of Hawaii’s great artists, his many talents and interests establish Charlot as a true renaissance man.

Charlot by Haar 1978

Throughout their twenty-year friendship, Francis Haar took many photographs of Charlot, documenting him at home and at work. This portrait was from their last session, taken in 1978 a few months before Charlot’s death.


The “Founding Collection” of books, archives, original artwork, photographs, audio-visual materials, and memorabilia was donated to the University of Hawaii’s Hamilton Library in 1981 by Jean Charlot’s widow, Zohmah. Additions to the collection were made by the artist’s family and friends. This is Hawaii’s most comprehensive public collection of artist papers. It serves faculty, staff, students, researchers and receives exhibition loan and reference inquiries spanning the globe.

Charlot ___Kahuna

“Kahuna with Sacred Stone,” portable fresco (plaster on Canec) created as a demonstration piece for Helen Gilbert’s art class in 1969.


The collection covers Charlot’s (1898-1979) career from France, to Mexico, to the United States and the Pacific. Charlot was prolific, creating paintings, frescoes, drawings, prints, ceramics and even sculpture. He was a scholar, critic, book illustrator, cartoonist, poet and collector. There are so many facets to his life that Bron says she can never predict how students will make use of the collections.



Bronwen Solyom

Bronwen Solyom, Curator of the Jean Charlot Collection, surrounded by art, archives, and books in the reading room (photo by M. Van Heukelem)


One of the most interesting aspects is the range of stories the collection tells in terms of his relationships with other artists. Correspondence between Charlot and noted photographer Edward Weston inspired a book. A postcard from Paris is signed by Dorothea Tanning, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Betty and Gustav Ecke. In Mexico, one of Charlot’s first jobs was to help Diego Rivera on a mural. Photographer Tina Modotti executed an early portrait in Mexico and Francis Haar’s photo of Charlot (pictured at top) captures him late in life.

Charlot EXHIBITION REC 1916 1st exhib

Charlot’s early interest in liturgical art led him to join the Gilde of Notre Dame, a group of young artists. In a 1916 exhibition, he stands next to Margeurite Hure, later a well-known stained glass artist, and sculptor, Renee Trudon. He displayed two polychrome horizontal bas-reliefs of angels, and a woodcut, Skeleton [Le pecheur, the sinner].

As a child in Paris, Charlot was surrounded by family collections. An aspiring young artist, he was taken to the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro (now the Musée de l’Homme) by family friend and photographer Désiré Charnay. Shortly after he began exhibiting (first exhibition pictured above), in 1918 he was sent to the front to join the French artillery and eventually became a junior officer. Following the war, Charlot tried his hand as a commercial artist, designing cosmetic packaging for Elizabeth Arden in the early 20’s. With little opportunity to make it as an artist, Charlot took his widowed mother to Mexico to live with relatives in 1921. Some of the earliest and most interesting memorabilia in the collection comes from Charlot’s family collection and his early years in France.


Charlot Goupil Louis vitrine 1970

Nineteenth century vitrine filled with Mexican folk art miniatures inherited by Charlot’s grandfather, Louis Goupil (who inherited it from his father Victor), as displayed in Charlot’s French childhood home.



In Mexico City Charlot was part of the Mexican Mural Movement. He fully immersed himself in the culture, even learning the language of the Mayan people. Besides murals, Charlot is recognized for working closely with archaeologists at Chichen Itza where he documented the fugitive colors on painted walls and reliefs as they were excavated. He collected the work of then under-appreciated artist José Guadalupe Posada. He was friends with Mexican artists active in the early 20th century including José Clemente Orozco, Emilio Amero, Leopoldo Mendez, Xavier Guerrero, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Charlot Massacre in the main temple  Kochen

“Massacre in the Main Temple.” Fresco mural, 1923, measuring 14 x 26 feet. Stairway, West Court, Escuela Prepatoria (now Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso), Mexico City.

Bron explains “this fresco, inspired by Paolo Uccello’s great battle masterpiece, established Charlot as a master of design and technique at the dawn of the so-called Mexican mural renaissance. The historical subject matter depicts atrocities committed by Spanish invaders as they surrounded a temple and killed or imprisoned the Aztecs celebrating a festival. It reflects Charlot’s pro-Indian sympathies and the lingering horrors from world war one. The powerful lines of the lances following the angular shape of the wall are painted in vermilion encaustic, an added medium that Charlot did not use again.”

He continued on to a career in the United States, working in New York and Colorado, before settling in Hawaii in 1949 where he taught at the University of Hawaii for 17 years. His first project was a mural for the University’s new administrative building (Bachman Hall). This mural titled “Relation of Man and Nature in Old Hawaii” as well as murals at the Hawaii Convention Center (installed from a prior location), Leeward Community College Theatre, and the United Public Workers building (with Isami Enemoto) on School Street, feature prominently in our public spaces.

JC PORTRAIT 1949 drum

A prophetic moment. Charlot discovers the power of the Hawaiian drum at Bishop Museum. Photograph by Walter Johnston, 1949.


He went with Hawaii artist Juliette May Fraser to Bishop Museum to study Hawaiian art and artifacts in preparation for his first mural in Hawaii. As in Mexico, he immersed himself in the local culture, taking Samuel Elbert’s first Hawaiian language class and continuing to repeat the courses once he reached the highest level of instruction.

Unexpected finds include a variety of memorabilia: rare 19th century Mexican folk art miniatures passed down through his family; a Margarete Steiff bear hand puppet (puppets became a recurring theme in his work); and his WWI artillery uniform. Artist archives can have many points of interest for researchers and this collection is a treasure trove for curators, historians, art collectors, and researchers on a multitude of topics.

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The Jean Charlot Collection is located on the 5th floor of Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The reading room is open Tuesdays from 9:00 am to noon and Thursdays from 1:00 to 5:00 pm, or other times by appointment.

All photographs courtesy of the Jean Charlot Collection with captions by Bronwen Solyom, unless otherwise noted.

Information was drawn primarily from a conversation with collections curator, Bronwen Solyom, with supporting information from the Jean Charlot Collection website and brochure. Many thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge and stories about the collection!


Malia Van Heukelem

Repository Spotlight: Kalaupapa National Historical Park- Hale Malāma Curation Facility

On November 3rd, I boarded a Cessna with a handful of other excited museum, library, archive, and cultural resource professionals from around the Pacific.  We were headed to Kalaupapa National Historical Park (NHP), to attend a three-day National Park Service (NPS) training:  “Preventative Care and Remedial Conservation Techniques for Archival Collections and Wooden Artifacts.”  UH Manoa students were among the participants, along with specialists from the Honolulu Museum of Art, ꞌIolani Palace, Kona Historical Society, and National Parks in American Samoa and Guam.  

As we departed Oꞌahu, I was reminiscing about my journey to the park with AHA back in 2011.  Museum Curator, Scott Williams, was our host and provided an orientation of the park, the new Cultural Resources facility, and some of the museum collections.

My attention was quickly drawn out the Cessna window as the Molokaꞌi North Sea cliffs came into view.  It was more breathtaking than I had remembered; although this was the first time viewing from that vantage point.  In my first visit, the adventurous archivists had flown topside and hiked down the 3.5 mile trail.  The trail scales 1,600 feet of vertical sea cliffs, with 26 switchbacks, and it was an amazing introduction to life on Kalaupapa.

As we now approached the runway for landing, I was grateful for the opportunity to experience Kalaupapa from the air.  After all, when you can witness things from varying points of view, there is often an enhanced understanding and appreciation for the beauty that is….

 “Kalaupapa… is a place where past suffering has given way to personal pride about accomplishments in the face of adversity.  It is a place where each of us can reconsider our emotional and physical responses to people with disfiguring disabilities or illnesses.  It is a place where the land has the power to heal—because of its human history, natural history, and stunning physical beauty.”  –NPS GMP/EIS

Kalaupapa NHP’s Hansen’s disease (leprosy) population, both surviving and deceased, with its material culture, oral histories, and intact physical community, is one of the only of its kind in the U.S.  The settlement is still home to several surviving patients that reside in the community on a part-time or full-time basis.   Kalaupapa NHP honors the mo’olelo (stories) of the isolated Hansen’s community by preserving and interpreting its sites and values.

Newly restored sign.

Newly restored sign at the airport.

The park is also an extensive and valuable archaeological complex with a number of archaeological resources, a vast variety of site types, and an extensive time range of habitation and land use.  The role of the peninsula as a place of exile from 1866-1969 contributed to the preservation of the pre-contact archaeological complex.   According to NPS, Kalaupapa remains one of the richest and least disturbed archaeological landscapes in Hawaiꞌi.

As part of continuing efforts to preserve objects of social and cultural significance, KNHP arranged for two conservators from Harpers Ferry Center (HFC) to work on-site for one month with a major task of cleaning and stabilizing the altar at St. Philomena Church.  Carrie Mardorf, Chief of Cultural Resources, with sponsorship through Pacific Historic Parks, also arranged for the conservators to teach a three-day workshop to allow museum students and professionals from the Pacific Islands to learn about preventative care and conservation techniques for museum objects.

The training was held in the Cultural Resources building, which houses state of the art curatorial facilities to preserve and conserve objects, artifacts, and archive materials that tell the stories of Kalaupapa NHP and its residents.  The collection storage and research facility, called Hale Malāma, was not fully completed back when AHA visited in 2011; so it was a privilege to see the result of phase II.

Scott Williams reports that the museum collection, first managed in 1987, contains over 350,000 objects and archival documents, primarily representing the late twentieth century experiences of residents within the Kalaupapa Settlement.  A growing portion of the collection is comprised of archaeological assemblages and representative natural specimens as management continues to inventory its resources.   Roughly 300,000 items have been accessioned and cataloged into the Interior Collections Management System.  For several years there was no full-time museum staff to process the items.  Right now, Scott is the only museum employee; however, the Museum Technician position will be filled in February.

The mauka wing has a lab and curatorial storage facility, which holds rows of books, archives, archaeological collections, and personal objects, that all tell a story of Kalaupapa’s history.  The mauka lab is used for accessioning, cataloging, and conservation work; in addition, it contains two large chest freezers.  The wing also holds a large back-up generator that proved very useful during our stay; although, in darkness we learned that the generator is solely for climate control and not lighting.

 Note:  Clicking on any photo in this post will display more information.

The makai wing holds a storage facility for over-sized objects such as furniture, lighting fixtures, and antiquated medical equipment.  This wing also contains a lab for processing and conservation work and allows for new collections to be brought in without affecting other collections.  I was highly impressed with the large walk-in freezer, which we also noted had a safety feature so that you could not lock yourself inside.

We were fortunate to have two highly informative and engaging HFC specialists lead the training.  Theresa Voellinger is the Photograph and Paper Conservator for all of NPS; and Curtis Sullivan is the sole Wooden Artifacts Conservator.   They carefully balanced lectures with hands-on opportunities to work with the museum collections.

Participants working with some of the park's archival collections. Photo Credit: NPS/S. Williams.

Participants working with some of the park’s archival collections. Photo Credit: NPS/S. Williams.

Theresa covered the history of paper and photography; as it is important to know what an object is made of and how it is made to properly care for it.  We  learned some surface cleaning techniques for archival collections and were able to clean some of the Park’s collection.

Theresa also taught us countless great tips and tricks for handling and caring for a variety of objects, including distinguishing cellulosic film and polyester film.  After learning about long-term preservation strategies for film-based photographic materials, we tried out our new skills and prepared some of the park’s cellulose film for cold storage.  The micro-climates we created will allow the boxes to be placed in a frost-free freezer.

 Note:  Clicking on any photo in this post will display more information.

When caring for wood objects, Curtis explained the usefulness of understanding the nature of wood and the variation of wood grain from various sawing techniques.  As both a wood craftsmen and a conservator, Curtis seeks to understand how a piece was selected.  The boards a woodworker may have chosen for decorative or aesthetic purposes may be unstable and difficult to conserve.  Conservation of wooden materials at Kaluapapa has been challenging due to the environmental conditions and termite infestations.


 We also had the privilege of seeing the work that Theresa and Curtis had completed at the park.  We did a site visit to Kalawao and St. Philomena (Father Damien’s Church).  Father Damien, one of the most famous caregivers at Kalawao, is buried in the churchyard at St. Philomena. Damien was 49 years old when he died on April 15, 1889, with Mother Marianne at his bedside. His remains were exhumed in 1936 and reburied at Louvain, Belgium. In 1995, a relic composed of the remains of his right hand was returned to his original grave at Kalawao. In 2009, Damien was canonized a Saint in the Catholic Church.

Just one of their many projects during their stay, Theresa and Curtis worked tirelessly as a team to stabilize and clean the surface of the church alter.  Loose pieces were secured, termite damage was repaired and surface grime was removed.

If you have questions about KNHP collection accessibility, a portion of the collection is accessible for research to the public on-site and electronically.  Many materials have been digitized for access (NPS Web Catalog) for users off-site or those who can’t travel to park; however, some content is sensitive and requires restricted distribution. Copyright and permissions issues also limit distribution of some materials.

On behalf of all of the participants, I extend a huge Mahalo out to the NPS staff for being our hosts, teachers, and friends: Carrie Mardorf, Scott Williams, Theresa Voellinger, and Curtis Sullivan.  We walked away with  more than I could ever articulate in a blog post.

I leave you with the beauty that is… Kalaupapa…. Respectfully, Jill Sommer

“Many who come to Kalaupapa recognize an intense, nearly tangible, mana or powerful force that Hawaiian peoples find in all things. The ʻāina (land), a vital source that links us to spirit is sacred and becomes our ʻaumakua (guide) that connects us to the continued presence of all who lived out their lives on this peninsula. The ʻāina’s mana (spiritual essence) connects us to each other and to spirit.”  –NPS GMP/EIS

Hale Waihona – He Waihona ‘Ike / Collection Repositories – Collections of Knowledge

An ancient Hawaiian mele (chant) from the Pele family ends with the lines “O ‘imi‘imi, o nalowale, o loa‘a la e!” (Seek that which has been lost, and it will be found!) (Ho‘ohila Kawelo Collection).  I like to think that the kūpuna of old had a vision of the future, recognizing that while things would change, a generation would arise that would seek out those things thought lost.

Hawaii researchers at Library of Congress map collection

Library of Congress map collection where a group of Hawai’i researchers explored the Hawaiian Collection.

Without the foresight and commitment of people who organized and formed repositories of the mind and of documents,  those things “lost” may never be found. For the last 42 years we’ve been haunting collections seeking information on the traditions of place, and learning about the relationship shared between people and their living environment. The collections range from small family repositories to historical societies, public and agency archives, and national institutions, and are as far apart as Lāna‘i to Hilo, Honolulu, Denver or Boston.

Houghton Library, Harvard: Digital Scanner

The Houghton Library, Harvard, where we learned about the ability of scanning Hawaiian records to digital format, enabling us to bring valuable historical records back home since written as early as 1820.

One of the amazing discoveries is that regardless of how many resources may be found in any given collection, there is always more to be found elsewhere.  For example, a review of kingdom surveyor field books at the State Survey Division, leads one to associated but detached communications housed in the State Archives, and from there, one finds leads to the old U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Branch collections in Silver Spring Maryland.  Each repository has discrete documentation, which, when pulled together provides us with a more complete understanding of the past.  This is also one reason why digitizing collections is very important.  For various reasons, one cannot always touch the paper.  But scanning collections and sharing them helps to bring valuable information to all people (it also reduces the stress on rare resources by minimizing handling), and the better informed we are of our history, the better prepared we can be to be responsible stewards of the inheritance that we leave to the future.

Un-catalog land & genealogy records on Maui

Un-cataloged collection of land records and genealogies (land title) on the island of Maui.

Much as the preeminent native Hawaiian historian, Ioane Papa Ii wrote in his paper series published in the 1860s, the fragments of history are indeed scattered far and wide (“Na Hunahuna no ka Moolelo Hawaii”), but from the fragments clearer stories of our history may be found.  Then add to the research in collections, the oral histories of elder kama‘āina and it will be seen that fragments of traditional knowledge still lives in practice.  On top of that one will find that being on the land for which records of archival collections and memories of elder kama‘āina are found, brings a history and legacy of knowledge back to the present day.

Mahalo to those who have worked to collect the notes, photos, maps, journals, receipts, and every small or large record from the past. Everything has value to someone, and through the records recorded by those who came before us, we are able to understand how we came to where we are, and have greater appreciation for the importance of Hawai‘i.

By Kepā Maly