Honolulu's Museum for the Next Century

Sunset, November 1990 | Go to article overview

Honolulu's Museum for the Next Century


It started as one of Hawaii's great love stories and a memorial to a princess. Today, a hundred years later, Honolulu's Bishop Museum is one of the Pacific's oldest and most respected natural and cultural history museums.

This month you can join the Bishop Museum's ongoing centennial celebration with the November 20 opening of a Pacific research exhibition in the dramatic new Castle Building. It's one of many events scheduled for Celebrating a Century of Discovery, an 18-month series of exhibits and programs that will continue through June 1991.

"A building for the next century"

The celebration started last February with the dedication of state-of-the-art Harold Kainalu Long Castle Memorial Building. The museum's first major new exhibition space in nearly 90 years, it almost doubles exhibit space and provides the museum's first (and much needed) flexible area for changing shows.

Contemporary but massive, with round granite columns and an arched window wall, it stands comfortably with the original buildings. "We didn't want to build on traditional concepts," insists Donald Duckworth, the museum's director. "We wanted a building for the next century to welcome and involve visitors in new and changing exhibits."

The November exhibit, Discover!, will fill the Castle Building's first-floor main gallery with prime examples of the museum's hundred-year tradition of sending scientists all over the Pacific to research and collect such things as Hawaiian artifacts, preserved plants that are now extinct, and newly discovered species of insects. Guides will demonstrate techniques used to protect and preserve research collections; workshops (some just for children) and lectures by museum scientists will accompany the show through March 4. Upcoming shows will fill Castle's first two levels, with the second primarily a gallery for hands-on displays, Here, too, will be the Lawrence Newbold Brown Listening Center, where you'll be able to listen to recordings of old Hawaiian chants, tales from history, and stories from early plantation days. It should be open by the end of the year.

From royal warehouse to state museum

To the right as you face Castle Building are the museum's oldest buildings, Richardsonian Romanesque structures of lava stone quarried on the site.

They were built between 1888 and 1903 on the campus of the Kamehameha School for Boys by banker Charles Reed Bishop, husband of Princess Bernice Pauahi, the last member of the Royal Kamehameha family. When his wife died in 1884, her estate went to founding and perpetual maintenance of Kamehameha schools for Hawaiian children. Carrying out a promise made to his wife, Bishop built the museum to house her collection of Hawaiian antiquities.

The three original interconnected museum buildings house permanent collections. The arched tower entrance leads to a magnificent koa wood stairway. …

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