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Bishop Museum unveils $8.5M renovated Pacific Hall

Bishop Museum reintroduced to the public its renovated Pacific Hall.





There are huge television screens and mulitple interactive touch screens in the renovated Pacific Hall. See more photos.

Welcome to the 21st Century, Pacific Hall!

Over the weekend, the Bishop Museum unveiled its recently renovated Pacific Hall (formerly named Polynesian Hall). Visitors were greeted with interactive media screens and artifacts from the Pacific spanning a 6,000-year period. The two-story, 119-year-old exhibition hall underwent its last major renovation 56 years ago.


"These buildings predate electricity; The gallery is older by two years than the invention of the automobile," says Blair Collis, Bishop Museum's president and CEO. "We've brought these spaces into 21st-century standards of museum care, everything from proper climate control, microclimates in every single case depending on what is in that case. We're able to adjust light levels depending on the materials; feathers are less hardy to light than Pohaku stone."


The number of artifacts in the gallery has doubled to encompass not just Polynesia, but the Pacific Islands. There's a mixture of ancient and modern pieces from China, Cook Islands, Taiwan, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji. Also on display, an oversized media screen and a restored Fijian fishing canoe hanging from the ceiling. Museum staff have restored the hall's koa beams to their original appearance; replaced the ugly, yellow, cut-pile carpet with new, blue carpet; and added an inlaid wooden map of the Pacific leading to the grand staircase.


“You’ll see, as you walk into the entrance area, that is actually the original tile from 1894,” Collis says. “So we were able to restore, literally, the tiles that Charles Reed Bishop and the trustees, the community walked through.”


The price tag? $8.5 million, paid with a combination of donations and capital improvement project funds from the state.


One of the attendees, Sally Lampson Kanehe, 72, had last visited Bishop Museum a year ago. "It's just been refined and all this beautiful koa wood," she says. "This is just a treasure trove of material from throughout the Pacific Islands and it makes me so proud (because) my children are Hawaiian and I'm Native American."


Stephen Maybir, 27, last visited in August 2009, when Bishop Museum reopened its renovated main exhibit space Hawaiian Hall. Maybir says his favorite artifact in the Pacific Hall was the chief mourner's costume chest piece, visible from the entrance.


“It feels not too much like a funeral home, like we’re observing dead objects,” Maybir says. “It’s a living space. It is part of who we are today, not just the past.”


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Honolulu Magazine November 2018
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