A new, state-of-the-art visitor’s center emerges at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.
you haven't been to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park in a while, you probably remember
its visitor center as a tired 1970s relic-old displays, old decor, old information.
That is about to change.|
Next month, the Kïlauea Visitor Center reopens, entirely updated with interactive, multimedia displays. Chief of interpretation Jim Gale spearheaded this major upgrade, ushering the visitor center into the 21st century. Normally enthusiastic, Gale is even more animated when discussing the changes. "Ours is going to be a masterpiece of exhibitry, using all the arts and sciences combined to let people fall in love with the park."
A large lavascape greets visitors upon entering the double glass doors. To the left sits the ranger information desk; to the right, the Hawai'i Natural History Association's bookstore, now in its own room. Arthur Johnsen's painting, "The Goddess Pele," hangs beside the fireplace. The volcano deity-aglow with warm oranges, browns and reds-strides through molten lava.
Beyond is the exhibit space, with pale blue walls and a midnight-blue ceiling. The room is dim and hushed, pools of light illuminating individual displays. In the center, for example, the exhibit "Against Enormous Odds, Life Arrived," explains how life came to Hawai'i via wings, winds or waves. Fiber-optic maps show jet streams and bird migration patterns, and touch boxes illustrate how snails might attach themselves to the muddy legs of a plover.
Gale particularly likes the "Kïlauea's Rain Forest" exhibit diorama. "Chase Studios worked for a year to replicate the most beautiful plants possible, so the color and even the fine hairs on leaves and stems are absolutely accurate." Visitors can identify plants in flipbooks or push buttons to illuminate forest birds and hear their songs.
Outside on the länai, current eruption and vog updates are available 24 hours a day. A large 3-D map of the island shows underwater topography 10 miles out from shore.
Gale stresses that these renovations are the collaborative effort of more than 20 advisory teams and 100 individuals, including scientists, rangers, writers, artists and küpuna working together to develop the new visitor center. "Kïlauea and Mauna Loa arose out of the sea and gave rise to a community of plants, animals and people. It takes everyone to take care of it."