Follow by Email

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lahaina Tells Its Story

New exhibits allow Lahaina to better tell its story
By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

Honolulu Star Advertiser – August 11, 2013

This display at the Lahaina Heritage Museum showcases household items used during the plantation era, including a kerosene stove made by the Perfection Stove Co. in the 1940s.
 Home of Maui's alii, capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, rest stop for whaling ships, missionary headquarters, plantation town, popular visitor destination — "there are so many layers to Lahaina's story, from ancient times to the present," said Theo Morrison, executive director of the nonprofit Lahaina Restoration Foundation. "It's one of very few places that have been significant in all of Hawaii's major historical eras."

The foundation is the steward of 11 historic structures in Lahaina and maintains collections of maps, logs, artifacts, manuscripts, photos and other materials. On Aug. 24 it will pre­sent Celebrate Historic Lahaina, a daylong event marking an improvement project called "Imagine" and the completion of new exhibits in the Old Lahaina Courthouse on the waterfront. Both bring to fruition ideas first discussed by community leaders almost 15 years ago.

Instilling respect for Lahaina's cultural and historic sites is among the goals of "Imagine," which was funded with a $50,000 grant from Maui County's Department of Planning. Work has begun to install more interpretive signs, create a historical walking-tour loop and restore an ancient dry-land taro patch where King Kame­ha­meha III once worked to show his people the dignity of manual labor.

A $565,000 grant from the private, nonprofit National Marine Sanctuary Foundation covered the cost of the courthouse exhibits, including about 20 display cases and 60 wall panels. Affiliated with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the foundation supports programs that raise awareness about America's marine sanctuaries.

"Part of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is in the waters off Lahaina Harbor, so it's in our neighborhood," Morrison said. "NOAA is increasing its education and outreach efforts where its sanctuaries are located."

The Lahaina Restoration Foundation provided administrative support and proj­ect management, then designed and installed the NOAA exhibits. "It was a complete redo that took two years," Morrison said. "We removed all the previous exhibits, put in new track lighting, repainted the interior walls and conceived, built and mounted brand-new displays. This is the first time Lahaina's history is told in one location."

Exhibits have been set up throughout the old courthouse. In the first-floor hallways, for example, are black-and-white photos of early-20th-century Lahaina. The former detective's office has been transformed into a theater that continually screens videos on Hawaiian culture, history and marine topics.

A three-dimensional map the size of a king-size bed in the second-floor lobby illuminates key landmarks around Maui. Here also is a touch-screen kiosk that shares information about the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Surrounding wall panels show the islands' natural environment and man's role in it.

Displays on the second-floor lanai point out historic sites within view, including the landing where King Kame­ha­meha III and Maui's ruling chiefs gathered with the Rev. William Richards to write the first constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

In the Lahaina Heritage Museum on the second floor, exhibits are divided by era: Ancient Times, Monarchy Period, Whaling/Missionary and Plantation/Tourism.

Of special note is an 8-by-10-foot kapa (tapa) with wide pink stripes, circa 1850-1870. An ingenious kapa maker achieved the pink hue by mixing red threads with wauke (paper mulberry) fibers and beating them together.

Cloth was shredded into tiny pieces and worked so well into the kapa that the threads can be seen only under close examination. It's possible the maker was inspired by blankets from the Hudson Bay Co., which had a store on Front Street in the mid-1800s.

"We hope Celebrate Historic Lahaina will draw local residents back to the harbor to participate in art, history, cultural and marine activities," Morrison said. "Of course, visitors are welcome to join in the festivities, which are the culmination of decades of hard work by the community to create a Hawaiian sense of place and a proper tribute to Lahaina's amazing past."

Place: Lahaina Harbor area, Maui
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 24
Admission: Free
Information: Call 661-3262 or email

NOAA exhibits: Grand opening 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 23, with presentation by author and historian Katherine Kamaemae Smith at 3 p.m. Regular museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Sailing on the hour, courtesy Lahaina Yacht Club
10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.: 90-minute walking tours of Lahaina led by Maui Nei Native Expeditions
Noon-5 p.m.: Taro in an ancient patch on Lahaina Library’s lawn

Lahaina Grom Surf Bash, surfing contest for ages 17 and under, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Register at
View the 42-foot double-hulled sailing canoe Moolele.
Fishing games, photo contest and fishing competition for kids.
Screenings of cultural videos in the lower-level conference room of Wharf Cinema, 658 Front St.
Hawaiian games, cultural demonstrations, tastings of traditional foods, display of one of Duke Kahanamoku’s wooden surfboards, on Lahaina Library’s lawn. Woodworker Charlie Nolan will carve a 12-foot canoe.
>>Display of 1930s tin boat made by Lahaina resident Sammy Kadotani, Banyan Tree Park. Sailing in such boats, made from tin roofing, was a favorite pastime of children during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Historic Hawaii Foundation We’re Social! Like Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter
Sign up for our E-newsletter for the latest on preservation-related events, news and issues here in Hawai‘i & beyond.

No comments:

Post a Comment