State archives marks 100th year
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By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Loren Moreno
The public will be allowed a rare glimpse at historical government documents and artifacts dating back as far as the Hawaiian monarchy as the Hawai'i State Archives celebrates its centennial today on the grounds of 'Iolani Palace.
The state archives include thousands of pages of legislative records, private papers documenting the history of Hawai'i and thousands of photographs of Hawai'i's leaders and influential figures — all rarely on display.
The "Mahele Book" from the 1850s, when land was split up among the chiefs in the Great Mahele and private land ownership in Hawai'i was started, will be one of the more popular items on display, said Susan Shaner, state archivist.
Also on display will be the red, white and blue telephone answered by Elmer Cravalho, speaker of the Territorial House of Representatives in 1959, when Hawai'i received official word that it had become a state.
"Our state archives are unique compared to other states because we have the records of an independent nation," Shaner said.
No other state can boast a collection of kingdom, republic, territory and state governmental records all under one roof, she said.
Celebrations will begin at 1 p.m. today and will feature remarks from Gov. Linda Lingle, followed by entertainment by Ka Pa Hula Hawai'i, under kumu hula John Kaha'i Topolinski. Tours of the archives' storage vault will begin at 2 p.m., and other artifacts and documents will be on display on the ground level of the Kekauluohi Building next to 'Iolani Palace.
Contained deep in the archive's storage vault, normally sealed off to the general public, are some of the most valuable of the state government's collection. They include treaties between the Kingdom of Hawai'i and countries such as Great Britain and Japan, government seals used by Hawai'i's monarchs and even dies used to create the government's official coins.
"We have a lot of things people don't normally associate with an archive," Shaner said. "The only reason we collect these kinds of things is because they are connected with the government."
Government documents are generally open to researchers seeking historical information. However, people are not allowed into the vault. Instead they can request certain documents to be brought out by archive staff. Legislative records are some of the most common documents that are viewed, Shaner said. Genealogical research is also common.
The state archive is also home to hundreds of boxes of gubernatorial records, dating back to the first territorial governor, Sanford B. Dole. They include correspondence, speeches, reports and proclamations from each of Hawai'i's chief executives.
Reach Loren Moreno at email@example.com.