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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 27, 2006

OHA chips in $2M for museum restoration

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has approved a $2 million grant for a project to restore Hawaiian Hall, the Bishop Museum's historic Victorian icon built in the late 1890s.

Bishop Museum president William Brown said the grant, approved Thursday, represents 10 percent of the $20 million renovation plans for the entire Hawaiian Hall complex the first major project of its kind in the building's history.

Brown said he was excited and pleased by the OHA gift.

"These are the oldest, most important buildings, at the museum," said Brown. "They've really never had a major renovation and improvement since they were built."

Charles Reed Bishop founded the museum in 1889 as a tribute to his late wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. Housed completely within Hawaiian Hall at the time, the museum contained the huge collection of priceless Hawaiian artifacts and royal heirlooms that had belonged to his wife.

Today, the institution holds millions of exhibit items, including some of the finest examples of Hawaiian artifacts in the world.

Brown said the OHA money, combined with $5 million the museum has already received from the state and private sources, brings the total collected to about $7 million.

He said the museum expects to reach the project's financial half-way point by July 10, when Hawaiian Hall will be closed and construction gets started. He said the renovation should be finished by the summer of 2007, and the building opened to the public in 2008.

OHA administrator Clyde Namu'o described the grant as "an acknowledgment that our cultural resources that are being maintained by the museum are important to Native Hawaiians."

"We also understand that the renovation of Hawaiian Hall will refocus some of their displays on Hawaiian history which is something that the trustees fully support," he said.

Namu'o said OHA trustees decided to approve the grant after the museum presented them with renovation plans that stressed the focus of Hawaiian Hall would be on Native Hawaiian history.

Namu'o said OHA doesn't intend to exert any pressure on how the work should be done.

"I don't think we're interested in micromanaging the development," Namu'o said. "But we would expect them to live up to their promises. As long as they execute what they indicated, that will be sufficient."

In addition to state-of-the-art lighting and displays by noted exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum, the building will be air-conditioned for the first time and equipped with a public threestory elevator.

The finished Hawaiian Hall will have at least five times as many items on display as it currently has, said Brown.

"Those display items will include capes and cloaks of old Hawaiian feather work made mostly before contact with the West," he said. "Hawaiian Hall will be entirely devoted to Hawaiian heritage."

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.