1525 Bernice Street
Wed-Sat 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sun 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Mon 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
The history of the Bishop Museum is exotic, royal, unique, and is reflected in the form it takes today. Originally conceived by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, this Hawaiian noblewoman was the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha line. Though she died before construction began, her husband, Charles Reed Bishop founded the museum in 1889 in accordance with her will. Intended to preserve and record the vanishing culture of the native Hawaiian people and as a repository for the royal family heirlooms; the museum has grown and expanded to become a world leader in Pacific cultural and natural history.
Any visit to the museum is going to be a compromise. There is simply too much to see, explore, or enjoy in one day. A gentle overview of the grounds and buildings with possibly a planetarium show would be a good beginning. Behind the modern entrance, the older buildings surrounded by beautifully maintained landscape give the impression, appropriately, of the setting of a royal mansion. One of the highlights of a visit is the great Hawaiian Hall. Outside the massive 1890’s building, the dark lava stone gives a solid and forceful appearance. Stepping inside, the interior expands unexpectedly three full stories into an atrium with a sperm whale suspended above your head. Lining the walls are balconies providing close and personal examination of case after case of fascinating items. Within the hall, you’ll find royal capes of gold and red made not from metal but from hundreds of thousands of tiny nearly iridescent bird feathers. There are finely braided necklaces made of human hair which only the highest rankings of royalty were allowed to wear. Everyday objects are well represented as well, poi-pounders, spears, fishing lures, and even an entire grass hut. Much of the holdings are native Hawaiian but in the adjacent Polynesian Hall; weapons, tools, and other artifacts from distant Pacific islands are included. The natural world is excitingly displayed in the Science Adventure Center. Interactive exhibits illustrate natural processes of the Pacific including a model of an erupting volcano and the formation of ocean waves.
The importance of the natural world of the past, present, and possible futures are one of the main concerns of staff scientist, archeologists, and ethnologists. The Bishop Museum has cataloged thousands of species of plants and animals, many unknown to science beforehand and some now extinct. The museum also oversees closed field research sites and publicly accessible locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands including the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Kona, and the Hawaii Maritime Center at Honolulu Harbor.
Along with changing Planetarium shows, there are special presentations throughout the year including Hawaiian dance performances, garden tours, seminars, talks, and workshops. The gift shop, Shop Pacific, offers unique crafts representing historical and cultural artifacts. There are also plenty of educational and better quality souvenir items. Especially interesting are the 100’s of publications offered by the Bishop Museum Press. It’s Hawaii’s oldest book publisher and has a long history of scholarly publication.
So whether you just drop by for a pleasant look around, or plan a detailed and focused visit, any day that you spend at the Bishop Museum will be rewarding and will most likely make you eager to return again soon.
In Honolulu, on Highway H-1 take exit 20A; turn or merge onto HI-63 The Likelike Hwy going uphill (northeast). Almost immediately, turn right onto Bernice St. There is free parking in the museum lot.
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