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Kaua'i Museum fun and informative

by Crystal Silva, '03

Where can visitors to Kaua‘i go to learn about the geology, ecology, and rich natural and cultural history of the Garden Island? If you want to learn more about this beautiful island than what you can learn from the drive guide, head to the Kaua‘i Museum, located in the heart of Lihu‘e, Kaua‘i’s business district and county seat.


The Kaua‘i Museum celebrates 43 years this year, and is showing no sign of stagnating.

The artists’ exhibit is prominently displayed in the main hall of the museum. Directly behind the main hall are several small rooms that house Hawaiian artifacts, many of which are thought to have once belonged to members of Hawai‘i’s royalty. Palace glassware and cutlery are displayed in glass cases, along with many items made of koa, a highly prized Hawaiian wood often used now for ceremonial bowls. Lining the walls were two timelines, one highlighting the life of Kaua‘i’s last prince, Jonah Kuhio, and another of 19th century events, such as the arrival of missionaries and other visitors and the construction of Kaua‘i’s hospital.

The best part of the museum, in my opinion, is “The Story of Kaua‘i,” a permanent exhibit in a separate room that houses a brief fifteen-minute movie on Kaua‘i’s formation. The exhibit itself begins with a “time tunnel” lined with replicas of Hawai‘i’s native birds and plants, diagrams about Kaua‘i’s natural history (vegetation zones, wetlands, native forests, etc.), and a huge map detailed with the Hawaiians’ areas of settlement, heiaus, springs, freshwater ponds, ditches, and salt ponds.
One section features basic items used by a typical household. Hunting tools and instruments used in food preparation are displayed with a card showing their Hawaiian names and how they were made. Hula implements, Hawaiian musical instruments, and games are similarly displayed.

The walls of the main section of the exhibit are lined with pictures of Kaua‘i’s monarchs dating back from 310 A.D. until 1780, along with a genealogy chart of King Kaumuali‘i, probably Kaua‘i’s most notable king, who ceded the island to Kamehameha I.

An interesting map is painted on the wall, highlighting the travels of Captain Cook, who first set foot in Hawai‘i when he landed on the west side of Kaua‘i.

A small section is dedicated to the religion of old Kaua‘i, with a display of ‘aumakua figures and a description of the main deities of the Hawaiians, as well as examples of items used in sacrificial rites and other ceremonies.

Another interesting exhibit in the museum is the room dedicated to Kaua‘i’s part in the industries that made Hawai‘i famous, the sugar and whaling industries. Artifacts and timelines are displayed near impressive murals of whalers and cane workers.

One room that is especially notable is made up to replicate a typical plantation house, like those that dominated Kaua‘i until mid-20th century. The room contains everything, including the kitchen sink, along with clothes that the plantation workers wore.

The upstairs back rooms are dedicated to the pioneers of Kaua‘i’s educational system, who formed the first schools on the island. Most of Kaua‘i’s early teachers, like those of other islands, were missionaries. There is also a section dedicated to these people, with information on their everyday lives. A replica of a missionary’s room is also set up in the very back, near a display case with personal items of the missionaries.

Overall, the museum is informative and very interesting. It’s a cheap date, and you will enjoy learning about the events and people that have helped to shape Kaua‘i today. Just a warning, though: make sure you stay long enough to commit your favorite exhibits to memory, as the museum prohibits any photography or videography.

The Kaua‘i Museum is located at 4428 Rice Street. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The museum is closed on Sundays. Call (808) 245-6931 for information.


Fine art a regular feature at the Kaua‘i Museum

The Kaua‘i Museum recent closed an exhibition of art by Fred and Leonard Tangolin, local men, and brothers, with family and day jobs who create in the evenings and on weekends.

The Tangolin brothers were born and raised on Kaua‘i, and their art draws upon nostalgic memories of a childhood that included using sugarcane trains for regular transportation, spending summers pineapple picking, and bathing in giant wooden tubs where the water was heated on a wood burning stove.

Fred uses a brush to evoke the mellow spirit of island life and aloha in pieces like his Madonna and child, right, and Leonard uses a chisel to reveal in his wood sculptures the power and beauty of ancient Hawai‘i.

According to the Kaua‘i Museum Web site, Fred began painting at age 13 when he spent a summer in Honolulu attending classes at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. His favorite subjects: “Old plantation homes, mothers and children fishing, and farmers tending to their taro fields.”

Leonard began carving in his early 20s and explains that “his inspiration was born of a fascination developed as a child watching his grand uncle carve toys.” His sculptures are bold in size and spirit and strongly Polynesian.


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