When people think of Hawaii (or at least when I used to think of Hawaii), they usually think of beaches, surfing, luaus, and all kinds of tourist attractions. When they come down to visit, there are of course all of those amazing things, but you may be surprised to hear about the number of museums just in Honolulu! It’s both a blessing and a curse, because you can spend hours upon hours in a museum, but there are also dozens in the greater Honolulu area alone, so you must limit your time wandering through each one.
Today, I settled for just one: The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. It’s right in between Salt Lake and downtown, right north of the interstate.As you walk in, you’re reminded of old-style castle architecture. Well, you probably are. I could only think about Harry Potter. The museum is spread across five or six main buildings, and is much larger on the inside. It doesn’t focus on one sole theme, except for perhaps Hawaii, as it shows exhibits on wildlife, island history, volcanoes and tsunami science displays, and even sharks.
The island history exhibits were fascinating, although a large portion of them were similar statues and totem-like poles in Hawaiian Hall. The rest of the museum had history from the beginnings of Hawaii up to our annexation of it in the last century, and there was even a bit of information on the U.S. military’s development in Pearl City. The tone in many of the informational descriptions seemed a bit slanted against the United States’ involvement in their history, but I have yet to meet a local here who seems unhappy about it.
One of the only sad things I noticed at the museum was in the bird section; a wall showing the birds species gone extinct due to human involvement in the islands:
The extinctions go all the way back to the early 1800s, when some of the first birds went extinct due to local farmers clearing away forests. The most recent extinction was in 2004, although a small number are expected to go extinct in the wild by 2020. The predictions go all the way forward to 2100, with 51 indigenous species listed.
The wall certainly made me more conscientious of my impact on the environment, especially on such a small island with limited room for animals and wildlife. The entire exhibit was a wake up call to remember to go easy on the environment, since it’s been there for us these million-some years.
So if you happen to have a vacation planned to Hawaii at some point, maybe stop to add a few museums in a couple days. Or, if you’re more interested in museums than the beach, consider hitting some up 4,000 miles away in the middle of the ocean! You’d be surprised what you can find here.
(P.S. there are also museums right on the beach, if you really want the best of both worlds!)