You can’t see ’em
without a museum
We asked readers: Does Honolulu
need a city museum to showcase the
city's history and its contributions
to the world?
Cities love to showcase themselves, which is why most have more than one museum through which patrons can meander and learn about various noteworthy people, inventions and histories of those municipalities.
Sometimes the information is scattered around several regional museums; sometimes it's gathered in a comprehensive, major collection and augmented by smaller institutions. Seattle has a Museum of History and Industry, which offers a solid overview of the inevitable collision of cultures in the Pacific Northwest.
Chicago has its Historical Society, which collects and displays items from the evolution of that colorful city. And of course our nation's capital has the National Museum of American History, which offers a bit of everything from around the country.
But what about Honolulu? Our default museum, Bishop Museum, is all about culture, not history. Our readers provided us with a few ideas.
I think Honolulu already has a good start on a city museum -- Dole Cannery. As long as Oahu is courting tourism, then it should definitely support a museum. One more tourist attraction to keep them coming back. Maybe the city or state should be partnering with Castle and Cooke to rent a space in Dole Cannery and expand on what they have started.
-- Steve Evans
I think a museum in Honolulu would be wonderful! I think that out of all 50 states, Hawaii should have a museum the most because we were the last state to be added to the U.S.A. It's almost like we built Hawaii from scratch, and it has developed in so many ways.
The museum should hold historical information from the kings and queens of Hawaii, from banks then to now, as well as famous airline developments. It should show the Hawaiian culture with simple tools such as the poi pounder, or plants, canoes and clothes! It should show Hawaii's interaction with other cultures, like Japan and Korea.
It should show major struggles that Hawaii has overcome throughout the years. The wonderful thing about these things being in the museum is that the older the museum is, the more information we can continue to add.
The best place for a museum is near tourist attractions. Many tourists already wish that they could live here. Having a museum available near where they were planning to go will only encourage a longer stay. It also should be placed where many people would go, locals and tourists alike, so near trolley pickup and dropoff areas would be nice.
-- Lynn Tran
Big square building
Honolulu already has a museum to preserve the outdated, old, mostly discarded ideas of our culture. It's in the state Capitol, feverishly working on bills to strip the executive branch of power.
-- David J. Shafer
Their money's worth
I venture to say that Honolulu does need to have a museum; however, the theme and point of interest rest on the "what the public will bear" mentality.
If the cost to enter the museum is free, then make it educational. If you are going to charge for entry, make it memorable. If you are thinking of charging a lot, make it enjoyable. If you are willing to charge the same as a plate lunch, then make it flavorful.
So the question is not whether you need a museum; rather, it's how much do you want to charge to expect the public to support it within their own market group and expectations.
-- Dan Harada
Not all flowers and aloha
The museum definitely should be geared toward locals and not tourists, because not all facets of the city's history are pretty and many locals don't know enough about our own history. Textbooks shield the truth at times, and we need to be fully aware of our past. Ideally, the museum should be like walking through a chronological time warp -- starting from its pre-colonization roots, through the whaling and occupation era, to urbanization, territory and statehood.
-- Marie Tutko
So many stories to tell
Someone once said the last thing we give up of our culture is the food. What a shame. Without museums, how will we keep alive the vast number of different cultures we have here in Hawaii? Why must a museum be only for visitors, Hawaiians, children or adults? It should be of interest to anyone who lives in this beautiful state or visits it. Why would anyone want to visit the islands and not know the history?
To hear the history of Kamehameha conquering the island of Oahu in 1795, or the history of the U.S. Congress passing a treaty in 1876 that allowed Hawaiian sugar to enter the United States duty free. Chinn Ho learned of the Waianae Sugar Plantation workers' vote to unionize in 1946. Ho gathered financing, and within hours of his offer the deal was set. To generate cash, Ho sold off beach lots for $2,500, selling other parcels to former plantation workers for as little as 10 cents per square foot! His dream was to provide affordable housing for anyone who wanted it.
This is the history, the story of the islands. Museums help it be known, for everyone!
-- Marjorie Collier
Is that bad?
If it's true that Honolulu is the only state capital without a museum, then we have accomplished a first that is not actually a negative. Don't we already have a few museums?
I assume you are defining a museum as a place where artifacts are stored and where no one lives. Using that definition, isn't the old Governor's Mansion a museum? Isn't it located in Honolulu? Isn't Iolani Palace a museum? It, too, is located in Honolulu. What about the Honolulu Convention Center? And what about the missionaries' houses? Don't I remember something about a historical society? Seems we do have more than enough of them, so why not just call the convention center the Honolulu Museum, save millions of dollars and kill two already dead birds with one stone?
-- Arnold Van Fossen
Who's paying for it?
The question should be, can we afford a city museum?
Let us have city history and heritage in the hearts, minds and practices of children and families by building quality parks where communities can gather and celebrate being communities, where stories can be told and retold ...
No, we should not have a city museum if it means another building, another facility, another staff, another funding battle. A big "no" if it takes more money from growing communities on the Leeward side.
Yes, you can have a city museum if you make it part of the already existing State Museum for the Arts and it does not cost money for capital or operating. That is the "economic" answer.
-- Carlos Hildebrand
Except for reading James Michener's "Hawaii," I believe few people know Hawaiian history and its importance in today's environment. For visitors and residents the perfect location would a portion of the sadly underused convention center. I live down the street from the center and it is seldom used. Even when it is used, the events are fairly small and do not fill the vast chambers. There's plenty of space to set aside a portion for history: a combination of artifacts and learnings, education and entertainment.
At present, the expensive center is more locked than open. A city museum, open seven days a week, would give the center the vitality and tourist draw it now lacks. One aspect of an exhibit would be to show Hawaii's influence upon the mainland, as well as the other way around.
-- Lance Grolla
Next month's Brainstorm!
Hawaii is popularly known as
"The Aloha State."
What might be a better slogan?
To get started, think about what you might see around the islands -- rainbows, waves, sand, traffic jams, homeless orangutans ...
Send your ideas by April 21 to:
Or mail them to:
c/o Nancy Christenson
500 Ala Moana
7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
c/o Nancy Christenson
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