Island Heritage Gallery

Visit our Island Heritage Gallery and stroll through time, from Polynesian settlement to the present day! The newly renovated Gallery presents a multifaceted, multicultural history of our Islands under one roof—something no other museum in Hawai‘i provides.  Follow a historical pathway of the many peoples, cultures, events, and ideas that have influenced the Hawaiian Islands and produced our complex and still-evolving society.

Begin with a look at how early Hawaiian people lived, including the tools and other implements they crafted from native materials in order to farm, fish, build canoes and structures, prepare and serve food, fashion weapons and adornments, and create clothing, coverings, and containers.  Learn how their spiritual beliefs and social relationships also helped early Hawaiians thrive in their new lands.

The Gallery then introduces the influences brought by external “Agents of Change,” from the early European explorers, whalers, traders, and missionaries … to the impact of Westerners on local concepts of government, land use, economy, and education … to the effect of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, and Korean immigrants who came to work on the sugar plantations, creating a new language (which we still use today), sharing food and customs and music, and helping develop the culture we call “local.”

Discover Hawaii’s political development from the early class-based society to the Monarchy to Statehood.  And learn how Kalākaua—our “Merrie Monarch”—renewed the practice of suppressed customs and art forms to usher in the renaissance of traditional Hawaiian culture that continues to flourish today.

Central to the Gallery is the Kīpuka, an interactive learning space where students may engage in hands-on activities such as Hawaiian kapa and tattoo design, cordage making, mat plaiting, and storytelling through hula, chant, petroglyphs, and oral legends—creating take-home materials using traditional techniques, and appreciating the culture behind these arts.