Center gets last visitors


POSTED: Monday, April 27, 2009

Andy Ho said he took his family to the Hawaii Maritime Center to view scenes of the island's sea history one last time before the museum closes on Friday.





        Located on Pier 7 at Honolulu Harbor, the museum-style center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Thursday. Admission is $8.50 for adults and $5.50 for children 4-12.



“;It has a lot to offer,”; said Ho, a resident of Kaneohe.

A number of people were visiting the museum yesterday for the same reason.

Founded in 1984, the center honors the sea history of the Hawaiian Islands, including the early Polynesian voyagers with their double-hulled sailing canoes and interisland steamships like the SS Waialeale.

In the center, a skeleton of a humpback whale hangs from the ceiling, flanked by glass cases exhibiting King David Kalakaua's Hawaiian naval ship, the Kaimiloa.

The artifacts are to be mothballed within the center indefinitely, with 24-hour security to guard the museum, officials said.

“;I think it's a shame,”; said Kris Matsumoto Wong, of Kaneohe.

“;It's such a nice thing to see.”;

Maritime Center volunteer greeter Cathi Butler, a retired Navy chaplain's assistant, said she will miss talking to people about Hawaii's maritime history.

“;I'm brokenhearted,”; Butler said.

Bishop Museum, which operates the Maritime Center, said it decided to close the facility, mainly citing drops in its endowment, a poor stock market and cuts in state support.

Timothy Johns, Bishop Museum's chief executive officer, said even during good times the Maritime Center was losing about $200,000 to $300,000 annually.

Johns said the museum board has made no long-term decision about the center's fate and is basically watching the condition of the economy.

“;We just have to see,”; Johns said. “;The board has not made a decision to permanently close it.”;

Bishop Museum announced the center's shutdown in conjunction with it shutting down museum operations in Kalihi every Tuesday starting May 5 and reducing staff by 19, including three people working at the center.

Fourteen Bishop Museum people were laid off last June.

Spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said the museum was moving forward with $21 million in renovations to Hawaiian Hall, the original museum building developed in 1889.

Dela Cruz said the workers remaining have agreed to reduce their workweek from 40 to 36 hours and have been contributing money from their paychecks toward the renovation of Hawaiian Hall.

“;It speaks volumes to how committed the staff is to the mission of the museum,”; she said.

The museum turned over ownership of the 19th-century sailing ship Falls of Clyde to the nonprofit Friends of the Falls of Clyde in September and the double-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe Hokule'a to the Polynesian Voyaging Society in August 2007. The deteriorating Falls of Clyde will remain pierside at the Maritime Center indefinitely, officials said.