Saturday, May 19, 2001

Smithsonian exhibit
gets funding

A Smithsonian display next year
will explain the island's history
and the efforts to restore it

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> A state agency has approved spending $100,000 to support establishing an exhibit about the former target island of Kahoolawe at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2002.

The Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission initially was asked to give $79,000 but decided to increase the contribution yesterday after learning that about half the exhibit money had to be secured by the end of this month.

The cost of the exhibit is expected to total $250,000.

A portion of the exhibit, "Kahoolawe: Rebirth of a Sacred Hawaiian Island," was displayed at the Bishop Museum on Oahu in 1996 and also on the neighbor islands.

A joint venture that includes the Bishop Museum plans to expand the exhibit by adding an introductory section for visitors unfamiliar with Kahoolawe and also a section exploring future plans for the island.

Bishop Museum official David Kemble said that from May 15 through Sept. 30, 2002, about 400,000 people are expected to view the exhibit and learn about Kahoolawe's history and efforts to restore it.

"It's an important window," Kemble said.

In Hawaiian culture, Kahoolawe is a manifestation of Kanaloa, the Hawaiian god of the ocean, and the island was used to train natives in astronomy and navigation.

After Western contact, goats, sheep and cattle were raised on the island.

The U.S. Navy seized the island in 1941 for bombing and military maneuvers. Hawaiians protested the military use of the island in the mid-1970s.

Kahoolawe was turned over to the state in 1994, with the understanding that the Navy would be in charge of the $400 million cleanup. The Navy's work is scheduled to end on Nov. 12, 2003.

State lawmakers have designated the island as a cultural reserve and plan to transfer control and management to a native Hawaiian sovereign entity, once one is established and recognized by the state and federal government.

Commission member Colette Machado noted that native Hawaiians George Helm and Kimo Mitchell perished in an ocean crossing while protesting the military use, and the island means a great deal to native Hawaiians who devoted years to stop the naval bombing.

Machado said the Bishop Museum exhibit on Molokai provided a way for residents who protested the bombing to help reacquaint themselves with the island.

"There was a tremendous pride," she said. "A lot of tears were shed."

Machado, who called for increasing the funding support to $100,000, said the exhibition in the nation's capital could make a difference in the public's perception of the island.

The $250,000 will fund expansion of the interactive displays, including the creation of a tunnel to simulate landing on the island, a diorama in the entryway and a 3-minute DVD montage of images from the exhibit.

Kemble said the joint venture is seeking a major contribution from the ordnance disposal contractor Parsons UXB and smaller donations from 12 other groups.

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