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Bishop Museum Closes Hawaiian Hall

Will Re-Open in 2008 After Renovations

In July of 2006, the Bishop Museum in Honolulu closed their three-floor Hawaiian Hall Gallery in order to begin a $20 million renovation project. The Hawaiian Hall is expected to open again in the Spring of 2008.

Bishop Museum Hawaiian Hall
Hawaiian Hall at the Bishop Museum
Photo Credit: Hawaii Tourism Japan


Bishop Museum has announced plans for the first major renovation and restoration of the iconic Hawaiian Hall Complex, which includes Hawaiian Hall, Polynesian Hall, the Vestibule and Picture Galleries, and the Kahili Room. Once complete, the Hawaiian Hall Complex will give Hawaii residents and visitors an opportunity to greater explore the depth of the Bishop Museum 's collections with multi-sensory interpretation of the stories of Hawaii.

To prepare for the renovation and restoration project, Bishop Museum has closed the three-floor Hawaiian Hall gallery and the Picture Gallery, with other phases of complex remaining open with as little disruption as possible as the project progresses. The main gallery is expected to re-open in Spring 2008, with other areas opening as soon as complete. Ralph Appelbaum Associates of New York and Hawaii-based Mason Architects and Health Construction Services are responsible for the overall planning, design, and construction.

Bishop Museum has the largest collection of Hawaii and Pacific area artifacts in the world; however, many of the most precious items are unable to be displayed due to Hawaiian Hall's unacceptable conditions - including natural light and open-air ventilation - that result from its original 1889 design. The first priority of the renovation will be to restore Hawaiian Hall and bring it up to modern conservation and accessibility standards, so that the Museum's many Hawaiian treasures can be displayed.

"The Hawaiian Hall renovation will allow the Museum to better fulfill its mission to serve and represent the interests of Native Hawaiians," said Bill Brown, president of Bishop Museum . "When the project is complete, all three floors of Hawaiian Hall will be dedicated to the stories of Native Hawaiian history and living culture, as told from the Hawaiian perspective."

Hawaiian Perspective

The renovation and restoration project aims to modernize Hawaiian Hall's interpretation, bringing multiple voices and a Native Hawaiian perspective to the Museum's treasures. Hawaiian Hall will convey the essential values, beliefs, complexity, and achievements of Hawaiian culture, and look at Hawaiian history through Hawaiian eyes. The interpretation of the Hawaiian Hall exhibits will reflect a special sensitivity to Native Hawaiian culture and values and will demonstrate a world-class approach to the presentation of cultural materials in contemporary museums. A flexible display system will enable the Museum to exhibit more of its fragile and beautiful artifacts in a setting that emphasizes their beauty, power and mana (spirit) from the place in which they were created.

First Floor - Kai Akea

Visitors will enter the realm of Kai Akea, and the world of pre-contact Hawaii on the first floor of Hawaiian Hall. Here visitors learn about the legends of old, and see how religion permeated the daily lives of ancient Hawaiians.

Second Floor - Wao Kanaka

The second floor will introduce visitors to the realm of Wao Kanaka and the importance of the land and nature to Native Hawaiians. Daily life and cultural traditions are explored and enhanced through contemporary voices and practices.

Third Floor - Wao Lani

Visitors find a changing and dynamic Hawaii on the third floor, the realm of Wao Lani. On this level, visitors discover the enduring resilience of Native Hawaiians, the ali'i (royalty) and their traditions. They will look past the romance of the islands to the inspiring stories of those who have held steadfast, and to the complexity of modern Hawaiian life.

Picture Gallery

The Picture Gallery will be restored as a window into the nineteenth century. Pieces from the Museum's extraordinary collection of oil paintings and rare books from the museum library will be displayed on a rotating basis.

Artifacts will be displayed in ways that pay tribute to and respect their inherent power. The development of exhibits and mounting techniques will reflect traditional uses of artifacts. Some large, free-standing artifacts, like the heiau, hale and kii, will remain in positions of importance and be displayed with minimal railing barriers to maintain a feeling of openness, yet discourage touching. Other large objects, like the canoes and sperm whale, will remain in hanging positions.

Infrastructure and Public Amenities

The renovation work will include installing the building's first elevator, resulting in access to the three exhibition floors to all Museum visitors for the very first time; renovating public restrooms; installing an air conditioning system; upgrading electrical systems; and installation of an interior state-of-the-art security system.

Renovation Funding

Through generous funding, the Hawaiian Hall project will be the first part of a two-phase renovation plan, which also includes Picture Gallery and a new elevator courtyard. The second phase will include the restoration of Polynesian Hall and the Vestibule Gallery. The renovation project will cost approximately $20 million. To date, $10 million has been raised, including $4 million from the Hawaii state government, $2 million from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), $1 million from Princess Abigail Kekaulike Kawananakoa, and grants from the JM Long and Vera M. Long Foundations, Atherton Family Foundation, Cooke Foundation, and Victoria S. and Bradley L. Geist Foundation.

Museum Activity During Renovation

During the renovation, the Castle Memorial Building will continue to display national traveling exhibitions and special museum collection exhibits; the Science Adventure Center and Planetarium will be open for tours and ongoing programs; and museum staff will be planning future exhibition and specialized programs, working on research projects and education initiatives plus the acquisition of new collections. Information and updates about the museum's renovation and restoration work will be posted on its website throughout each phase.

Hawaiian Hall Complex History

The Hawaiian Hall complex was built from 1889 to 1903 in three phases. Today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The first portion of the Neo-Romanesque museum, known as Museum Hall, was designed by William F. Smith of San Francisco . The building was constructed from lava stone (basalt), quarried onsite, in a random range ashlar pattern. This first of three phases of construction of what would later be known as the Hawaiian Hall Complex consisted of a three-story entrance tower with a single-story exhibit room on its makai (ocean) side (now known as the Kahili room) and a two-story exhibition space on the mauka (mountain) side. This mauka portion of the building contained the Hawaiian Vestibule on the first floor with the Picture Gallery on the second floor. Phase II, Polynesian Hall, was added to the rear of the original museum in 1894 and Phase III, Hawaiian Hall, was completed in 1903. Other than the addition of public restrooms in 1924 and the installation of steel double doors in 1935, painting and wood refinishing and repair were the only upgrade tasks that occurred within Hawaiian Hall for nearly 50 years. Major alterations took place in 1968, when the naturally lit hall was equipped with electrical lighting.

Renovation Architect and Firms

Ralph Appelbaum Associates is the world-renowned museum planning and design firm whose credits include the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Heard Museum and renovations to the American Museum of Natural History.

Honolulu-based Mason Architects has worked throughout Hawaii and the Pacific on projects involving all types of residential design, adaptive reuse of historic structures, restoration, research, and institutional work. Its portfolio includes renovations of other historic structures in Hawaii - Iolani Palace, Shangri-La, Washington Place, and the Queen Emma Summer Palace .

With nearly 400,000 visitors each year, Bishop Museum serves as one of Hawaii's top destinations, providing hands-on educational experiences to help residents and visitors appreciate and embrace Hawaii's rich culture. By combining education, history and culture, the Museum strives to fulfill its mission set with its founding in 1889, "to study, preserve and tell the stories of the cultures and natural history of Hawaii and the Pacific." Located at 1525 Bernice Street, the Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $14.95 for adults; $11.95 for youth 4-12 years, plus special rates for kama Ďaina, seniors and military; children under 4 years and Bishop Museum Members are free. For information, call 847-3511 or visit BishopMuseum.org.

See also:
- Other Oahu Museums
- Attractions on Oahu
- Activities on Oahu

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