Editor’s Page: Hands-On History
Think visiting a Honolulu museum is a spectator sport? That’s history.
PHOTO: KAREN DB PHOTOGRAPHY
I t’s not often that I get to start my workday at a train yard. I wasn’t a locomotive lover as a kid. I was a bookworm who played piano and once made a pair of wings out of newspaper and tried to fly off the lava rock wall in the backyard. (I landed on my dog. She and my parents were not pleased.) So, when an assignment sent me to the Hawaiian Railway Society on Renton Road, my glee wasn’t because of the size and power of the steam and diesel engines parked around the property or sitting, ready to roll, on the nationally protected rails. It was the fact that I could touch something that people touched more than 120 years ago. I could feel history.
Everyone at HONOLULU Magazine is passionate about our communities’ past. That’s why most of us wanted to work at a 130-year-old magazine, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S. west of the Mississippi. And that’s why the entire team decided, in this issue, to celebrate institutions and nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to preserving our history and art.
When O‘ahu Railway & Land Co. locomotive No. 12 was retired, it was displayed at Ala Moana Center, Pier 40 and the Bishop Museum before arriving at the Hawaiian Railway Society in 1976.
Photo: christine labrador
My earliest memory of a museum visit is sitting on a bench, swinging my bootie-clad shoes while I waited for my class to walk into ‘Iolani Palace. Those booties that protect the palace’s wood floors haven’t changed. So much more has at our museums. Today, these pillars of our culture offer more than just a place to quietly contemplate centuries-old stories or intriguing new artwork. You’ll find interactive experiences and unique events meant to engage a whole new audience.
Imagine curling up in your sleeping bag in a hall surrounded by artifacts hundreds of years old; pulling out a beer at a picnic just steps away from where World War II officially came to an end; sitting in an open-air train car for an after-sunset ride along the West Side; walking through a haunted village from the early 20th century; or sipping cocktails while chatting with Alexander Cartwright (OK, an actor playing him, but still), one of the founders of baseball and Honolulu’s fire department.
The Hawai‘i Museum Association lists 98 museums and archives, historic houses, gardens, cultural organizations and national parks in the state. Thirty-three of the sites are on O‘ahu. In the past 12 years, I have taken my wedding photos at one, brought my family to five and visited 10 more for photo shoots and research for HONOLULU—a total of 16. How many have you been to recently? Check out our list of Hawai‘i Museum Association members, including a list of the free days at each, then start your own adventures at the museums. And if you discover another “must-do” moment while you’re exploring, share it on Facebook, Instagram or send me an old-fashioned email. (It seems handwritten letters are rapidly becoming historic pieces.) I’m always looking for a reason to visit museum No. 17.
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