The historic Hawaiian Hall at Bishop Museum celebrated its grand reopening this weekend, after the 120-year-old building finally saw its first-ever renovation. The work took over three years and $21 million, but the time, money, and thought spent in Hawaiian Hall’s renewal shines through.
Filled with priceless artifacts, the hall is now air conditioned. Rich koa wood that was once just painted over is now revealed and restored. The Hawaiian language is everywhere, as are images and video of real people from the Hawaiian community. Each of the three floors have been reorganized into main themes: “Kai Akea,” focused on pre-contact Hawaii and Hawaiian legends and mythology, “Wao Kanaka,” showcasing the day-to-day life of Native Hawaiians and their relationship with the land, and “Wao Lani,” exploring the monarchy and ali’i and visions of Hawaiian gods.
The character of Hawaiian Hall remains intact, with dozens of standing display cases and long railings lined with smaller artifacts. But curators have brought out hundreds of items that have never been exhibited before. And the whole building has been upgraded with multimedia presentations, hands-on activities, and striking art and sculptures.
My family and I are long-time members of Bishop Museum, and we greatly missed Hawaiian Hall… humid heat, dusty displays and all. It was the true “museum” at Bishop Museum, with the Castle Building next door and the huge Science Adventure Center across the lawn dedicated mostly to traveling exhibits and entertaining kids. When Hawaiian Hall was closed in 2006, its reopening seemed like it was an eternity away.
But the wait was worth it. The renovated Hawaiian Hall is spectacular.
Check out my full set of photos from Hawaiian Hall’s first day open to the public. Grand reopening events, with continuous live music and several special presentations, continue today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.