Bishop Museum

A Comparative Analysis of Historical Sites

Guidebook 1: Insight Guides - Hawaii

Guidebook 2: Hawaii Handbook

Guidebook 3: Lonely Planet-Hawaii

RIHiUSA Research Sources and Citations

RIHiUSA Interpretation

 Pages 151-152, “A bit farther up N.  King Street, then up Kalihi Street and across the Lunalilo Freeway, sits the world’s greatest   repository of Pacific   and   Polynesian research and artifacts.   This is the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, established in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in Kalihi-Waena as a memorial to his wife Bernice, a princess and the last of the Kamehamehas. In academic   centers,  the Bishop Museum is known as one of the four most important
multi-disciplinary museums in the United States, in a class with the Smithsonian Institution, the American  Museum of  Natural History and the Field    Museum of   Natural History. Besides housing the  largest  and most inclusive     single collection of Hawaiian and other Polynesian curiosities on earth, the museum maintains natural history collections of more than 18,000,000 animal and plant specimens – including 420,000 prepared plants (the Herbarium Pacificum),11,000,000 entomological specimens (insects and relatives), 20,000 lots of  fish from the tropical Indo-Pacific region, some 6 million mollusks (shell animals) and a wide range of bird and mammal species.However, the  Bishop Museum  is not just a dusty  place favored by scholars; its public  collections,both  permanent  and changing, are perhaps the most valuable briefing  a first-time or many-times Hawaii  visitor or  resident can ever experience.
Available for viewing in the museum's koa-paneled halls and  glass cases are carved and feathered  gods, capes and other   remnants of  pre-contact  Hawaii; brilliant regalia    from the time of Kamehameha the Great; the monarchial crowns, thrones, royal orders and  court costumes used in Iolani Palace by King Kalakaua  and  his sister, Queen Liliuokaiani; and  important pieces  reflecting  the sociocultural  experiences of Hawaii's many immigrant groups.
The museum also manages and maintains a   planetarium and astronomical observatory.”


p. 234-236. “This group of stalwart stone buildings holds the greatest collection of historical relics and scholarly works on Hawaii and the Pacific in the world. Referring to itself as a “museum to instruct and delight,” in one afternoon you can educate yourself about Hawaii’s history and people and enrich your trip to the islands tenfold.
Officially named the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, its founding was directly connected to the last three royal women of the Kamehameha Dynasty. Princess Bernice married Charles Reed Bishop, a New Englander who became a citizen of the then-independent monarchy in the 1840s. The princess was a wealthy woman in her own right, with lands and an extensive collection of “things Hawaiian.” Her cousin, Princess Ruth Keelikolani, died in 1883, and bequeathed Princess Bernice all of her lands and Hawaiian artifacts. Together this meant that Princess Bernice owned about 12% of all Hawaii! Princess Bernice died less than two years later, and left all of her land holdings to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, which founded and supported the Kamehameha Schools, dedicated to the education of Hawaiian children. (Though this organization is often confused with the Bishop Museum, they are totally separate. The school shared the same grounds with the museum, but none of the funds from this organization were, or are, used for the museum.) Bernice left her personal property, with all of its priceless Hawaiian artifacts, to her husband, Charles. Then when Queen Emma, her other cousin, died the following year, she too desired to combine her Hawaiian artifacts with the already formidable collection and establish a Hawaiian museum.
True to the wishes of these three women, he began construction of the museum’s main building on December 18, 1889, and within a few years the museum was opened.” In 1894, after 50 years, in
Hawaii, Bishop moved to San Francisco where he died in 1915. He is still regarded as one of Hawaii's most generous philanthropists. In 1961, a science wing and planetarium were added.
Before leaving the grounds make sure to visit the Atherton Halau. The hall offers demonstrations in various Hawaiian crafts like lei-making, featherwork, and quilting.
Shop Pacifica, the museum bookstore and boutique has a fine selection of materials on Hawaii and the Pacific, and some authentic and inexpensive souvenirs.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed at the museum, so just take it slowly.The number of exhibits is staggering: over 100,000 artifacts, almost 20 million (!) specimens of insects, shells, fish, birds, and mammals, plus an extensive research library, photograph collection, and fine series of maps. The main gallery is highlighted by the rich tones of koa, the showpiece being a magnificent staircase.
To the right of the main entranceway is a fascinating exhibit of the old Hawaiian gods. Most are just called ''wooden image" and date from the early 19th century. Among them are: Kamehameha's war-god, Ku; the tallest Hawaiian sculpture ever found, from Kauai; and an image of a god from a temple of human sacrifice; and lesser gods, personal aumakua that controlled the lives of Hawaiians from birth until death. You wouldn’t want to meet any of them in a dark alley! Outside, in what’s called the Hawaiian Courtyard, are implements used by the Hawaiians in everyday life, as well as a collection of plants that have all been identified. The first floor of the main hall is perhaps the most interesting because it deals with old Hawaii. Here are magnificent examples of kahili, feathered capes, plumed helmets ...all the insignia and regalia of the ali'i. A commoner sits in a grass shack, a replica of what Capt. Cook might have seen.
Don't look up! Over your head is a 55-foot sperm whale hanging from the ceiling. It weighed over 44,000 pounds alive. You'll learn about the ukulele, and how vaudevillians spread its music around the world. Hula- skirted damsels from the
1870s peer provocatively from old photos, bare­ breasted and with plenty of "cheesecake." Tourists bought these photos even then, although the grass skirts they're wearing were never a part of old Hawaii, but were brought by Gilbert Islanders. See authentic hula instruments like a "lover's whistle," a flute played through the nose, and a musical bow, the only stringed pre- European Hawaiian instrument.
Don't miss the koa wood collection. This accomplished art form produced medicine bowls, handsome calabashes, some simple home bowls, and others reputed to be the earthly home of the wind goddess, and had to be refitted for display in Christianized lolani Palace. A model heiau tells of the old religion, and the many strange kapu that governed every aspect of life. Clubs used to bash in the brains of kapu-breakers are next to benevolent little stone gods, the size and shape of footballs, that protected hum­ble fishermen from the sea As you ascend to the upper floors, time becomes increasingly closer to the present. The missionaries, whalers, merchants, laborers, and Westernized monarchs have arrived. Yankee whalers from New Bedford, New London, Nantucket, and Sag Harbor appear determined and grim-faced as they scour the seas, harpoons at the ready. Great blubber pots, harpoons, and figureheads are preserved from this perilous and unglamorous life. Bibles, thrones, the regalia of power and of the new god are all here.”

p.160."The Bishop Museum is considered by many to be the best Polynesian anthropological museum in the world. It also has Hawaii’s only planetarium.
One side of the main gallery, the Hawaiian Hall, has three floors covering the cultural hi story of Hawaii. The first floor, dedicated largely to pre-Western contact Hawaii, has a full-size pili grass  thatched house  and numerous other displays from carved temple images to calabashes and weapons
One of the museum’s most impressive holdings is a feather cloak made for Kamehameha I and passed down to subsequent kings. It was created entirely of the yellow feathers of the now-extinct mamo, a predominantly black bird with a yellow upper tail. Around 80,000 birds were caught,plucked and released to create this cloak.
The 2nd floor is dedicated to 19th-century Hawaii.The Polynesian Hall contains masks from Melanesia, stick charts from  Micronesia and weapons and musical instruments from across Polynesia.
The Cooke Rotunda features an exhibit detailing how ancient Pacific navigators were able to journey vast distances, tuning into the seas and the skies for direction.
The museum also has a natural history section; large seashell , flora and fauna collections and the Kahili Room , where children can crawl under large turtle shells, try on a hula skirt or play with Hawaiian rhythm instruments.
In the Hawaiian Hall lobby, crafts people demonstrate
Hawaiian quilting, lei making and other traditional crafts.

Bishop, Bernice Pauahi. (1875-1876). Unpublished manuscript of her diary written during a vacation to Europe, housed at the Bishop Museum Library.

Brigham, William T. (1915). “Charles Reed Bishop: 1822-1915.” in Hawaiian Almanac and Annual for 1916. Honolulu: Thomas G. Thrum, Compiler and Publisher.

Cummings, Thomas. (2012). Personal Interview, June 1. Former Cultural Resource Manager at Bishop Museum. Presently with Kamehameha Schools.  

Damon, Ethel M. (1945). The Stone Church at Kawaiahao: 1820-1944. Honolulu: Trustees of Kawaiahao Church.

Dunn, Barbara. “William Little Lee and Catherine Lee, Letters from Hawai`i 1848-1855” in The Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 38.

Dwight, Edwin W. (1830). Memoirs of Henry Obookiah, Native of Owhyhee, and a Member of the Foreign Mission School: Who Died at Cornwall, Conn Feb. 17, 1818, Aged 26. Philadelphia: American Sunday School Union.

Gon III, Samuel M. O.et.al. (2009). Restoring Bishop Museum’s Hawaiian Hall. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press.

Haig, Christopher D. (2008)." Review of Literary Legal Precedents Guiding Educational Policies of Bernice Pauahi Bishop Trust." Honolulu: Research Institute for Hawaii, USA.

Kanahele, George H. S. (1986). Pauahi. Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press.

Kent, Harold W. (1965). Charles Reed Bishop: Man of Hawaii. Palo Alto: Pacific Books.
----------------------- (1972). Charles Reed Bishop: Letter File. Prepared for the Sesquicentennial of Charles Reed Bishop.

Kent, Philip. (2000). “Survival of the Fittest: The Romanesque Revival, Natural Selection and Nineteenth Century Natural History Museums.” in Fabrications. Vol. 11, No. 1, July edition.

King, Samuel P. and Randall W. Roth. (2006). Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement & Political Manipulation at America’s Largest Charitable Trust. Honolulu; University of Hawaii Press.

Krout, Mary H. (1908). The Memoirs of Hon. Bernice Pauahi Bishop. New York: Knickerbocker Press.

Kuykendall, Ralph S. and  A. Grove Day. (1966). Hawaii: A History from Polynesian Kingdom to American State. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Liliuokalani, Queen of Hawaii. (1898). Hawaii`s Story by Hawaii`s Queen. Boston: Lee and Shepard.

Lyons, Jeffrey K. (2004). “Memoirs of Henry Obookiah: A Rhetorical History” in The Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 38.

Missionary Album: Portraits and Biographical Sketches of the American Protestant Missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands. (1969). Honolulu: Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society.

Mitchell, Donald Dean. (1964). Educational Practices of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii.  Doctoral Dissertation. University of California Berkeley, California.

Richards, Mary A. (1970). The Hawaiian Chief’s Children’s School: 1839-1850.
Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle & Company

Rose, Roger G. (1980). A Museum to Instruct and Delight. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press.

The Bishop Museum was founded in 1889 following the moral US civic educational policied trust work of Bernice Pauahi and Charles Bishop. This leading couple of Hawaii was close friends with William Little Lee, Chief Justice of Hawaii from 1847 to 1857, who expanded the concepts of equal rights of life, liberty and property for Hawaiian commoners. The Bishop Museum was the result of acknowledging the stages from pre-contact to early monarchy to later elective monarchy and finally moral civic emancipative elective representative policied educational trends in Hawaii. This exemplary adjunct to Kamehameha Schools was  through the direct influence of Judge Lee toward the moral US Constitutionally protective civic educational emancipative advancement of the Hawaiian people.

Expanded Entry:
The establishment of the Bishop Museum was the result of a process that began with the conversion of the first Hawaiian to Christianity, Henry Opukahaia, in 1815 (Dwight, 1830: 45). He in turn recruited four Hawaiian youths to attend the Foreign Mission School that was located in Cornwall, Connecticut. This school was established by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to train students from indigenous cultures in Christianity and Western Culture. On the urging of these five students, the Board decided to send the first company of missionaries to Hawaii in 1820 (Lyons, 2004, 35-37). Reverend Hiram Bingham established the beginnings of a formal Congregational Church in Honolulu that year to minister to Native Hawaiians (Damon, 1945: 4-6.) Other missionaries established churches at locations in the Neighbor Islands.

The Board also initiated a school for the children of the highest ranking members of the Hawaii ruling class, the al`i. These children were trained toward moral, civic and scientific advancement by their teachers Amos and Juliette Montague Cooke, a New England couple. They instilled in their students an appreciation of egalitarian principles (Richards, 1970: 24-29).

Charles Reed Bishop arrived in Honolulu from Upstate New York in 1846 on a journey that was to have ended in Oregon. He was accompanied by his friend, attorney and civil engineer William Little Lee. Lee had studied law under Joseph Story, a US Supreme Court Justice at Harvard University (Kent, 1965: 6). Soon after their arrival, Lee was appointed as Chief Justice of the Court of Hawaii. Lee was instrumental in establishing the Great Mahele in 1848, a policy of land reform. This was approved by King Kamehameha III. Justice Lee was instrumental in establishing the rights of life, liberty and property for the Hawaiian commoners, the maka`ainana (Dunn, 2004: 60-61).

Ties between Hawaii and the United States increased to the point where in 1854, King Kamehameha III proposed a treaty with the United States whereby Hawaii would become a state. An article in the London Morning Post on October 20, 1854 depicted the great advancements achieved by New England missionaries toward civic progress for Hawaiians and positively explains steps being taken by the United States to peacefully purchase the Sandwich Islands from King Kamehameha III for annexation. The King died before this agreement was finalized (Kuykendall, 1966: 74-75).

Charles and Pauahi Bishop were influenced by Horace Mann, Jr. whom they hosted at their Honolulu residence in 1866. Mann was the son of Horace Mann, Sr. who had instituted universal education in the state of Massachusetts, (Kent, 1965, 34). Bishop later served on the Hawaii Board of Education from 1869 to 1874 and as its President from 1874 to 1883 and from 1887 to 1891 (Kent, 1965: 243-245).

Shortly after his marriage to Pauahi in 1850 , Charles Reed Bishop taught Sunday School at Reverend Samuel Chenery Damon’s Seaman’s Bethel Street Church in Honolulu with his close friend, General James Fowle Baldwin Marshall. One of their young students, later to become General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, established the Hampton Institute in Virginia in 1868 to train African-Americans in moral, civic and practical skills. Marshall became the financial officer of this institution from 1870-1884. Charles and Pauahi Bishop were greatly influenced by this example of educational outreach (Kent, 1965:18,146).

The will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, written in 1883, stressed that annual reports on the finances and activities of the Bishop Trust were to be submitted to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Trustee vacancies were to be filled by a choice of the majority of the Justices on the Supreme Court. The will reflects a decision by Pauahi Bishop to place the monarch outside of the decision-making process for the Trust. The first class of Kamehameha Schools, trained to respect elected democracy graduated in 1891 at the time that Liliuokalani became Queen. The dismantlement of the monarchy was a reflection of a process toward an alternative system reflecting democracy for all, as taught at the Schools. The dismantlement of the monarchy in 1893 reflected the culmination of a previously unfinished revolution toward democracy and safer freedoms that had commenced in 1820 (Haig, 2008: 6-7).

Upon initiating plans for a museum in 1885, the initial and major benefactor of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Charles Reed Bishop, made it clear that he wanted to establish the museum as a learning center for Native Hawaiian boys and girls attending Bishop Estate schools (Kamehameha Schools). The museum was erected on the Schools campus, adjacent to the boys school (which was under construction) and near the future site of the girls school (Kent, 1972: 38-39).

During the time Charles R. Bishop was planning to build a museum in his wife’s memory, numerous sites were proposed to him. In fact, most of his associates suggested a site in Downtown Honolulu, given that the current site was far from the urban center at the time.

Sanford B. Dole, a justice on the Supreme Court of the Hawaiian Kingdom, wrote his friend, William T. Brigham, in Boston in early February 1888 that the Museum should be placed in town, not on the campus of the Bishop Estate schools (Rose, 1980: 32, from Directors Report for 1915: 119-20).
On February 23, 1888, the Reform Cabinet of the Hawaiian monarchy discussed amalgamation of the Bishop Museum with the Hawaii National Museum. The Hawaii National Museum was housed at the end of one wing of Ali`iolani Hale, the government building, located on King Street across from Iolani Palace. The Minister of the Interior, Lorrin A. Thurston, suggested to Mr. Bishop that any consolidated museum should be located at a downtown site, but Bishop insisted that it be placed next to the school (Rose, 1980:.33).

Rev. Charles McEwen Hyde, a Bishop Estate trustee, explained the following in a Founders Day address at the museum in 1894:
“It was Mr. Bishop’s desire, in locating the Museum on these premises, to perpetuate what of public interest, of national interest, there is in this environment and unique collection of Hawaiian antiquities and relics. Heredity and environment are two potent factors in the development of races and individuals. It is Mr. Bishop’s desire that these memorials of the past shall furnish suitable instruction and intensify patriotic enthusiasm in the Hawaiian youth of both sexes brought into these buildings, under these influences, for education and training, and, as such, they properly form a part of the equipment of these schools” (Kent, 1965: 194).

Rev. Hyde had suggested the establishment of a museum to commemorate the Kamehameha dynasty to Pauahi and Charles Bishop soon after he arrived in Honolulu in 1877.  Rev. Hyde had been sent to Honolulu at the request of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (Rose, 1980: 12).
Rev. Hyde’s close friend, Rev. William Brewster Oleson was appointed as the first Principal of the Kamehameha Boys School in 1886. Rev. Oleson, saw the Museum as a functional adjunct to the School and strongly reinforced Charles Reed Bishop’s decision to locate the Museum on campus (Rose, 1980:16).

The majority of early Bishop Estate trustees were either ministers or scions of missionary families. They understood the efforts that had been made to launch the Native Hawaiians into modernity and toward a Congregational Christian moral and scientific free-enterprise world view (Missionary Album, 1937).

The ruling ali`i had traditionally emphasized learning for their young. This was not through group-learning activities but passed on from adults to their young through one-on-one education. Charles Bishop wanted the students to emulate this traditional love of learning practiced by the ali`i (Cummings).

Charles Reed Bishop and his wife, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, visited numerous museums exhibiting a diversity of subjects during their journeys to the Mainland US in 1871 and 1875, as well as during their European trip in 1876 (Krout, 1908: 161-174). Pauahi was especially interested in exhibits focused on art and industry at the Bavarian National Museum in Munich, as well as the Imperial Museum of Art and Industry in Vienna and the National Archeology Museum of Naples (Bishop, 1875-1876: 33, 42, 80). Mrs. Bishop had a keen interest in the exhibits which depicted the contrast of primitive tools used by early Europeans with modern tools used toward the scientific accomplishments of their descendants (Mitchell, 1964: 19).

Pauahi Bishop had been schooled at the Chief’s Children’s School, later known as the Royal School. She had learned the benefits of democratic government for all her people in contrast to monarchical rule (Kanahele, 1986: 30). Pauahi was influenced by two cultures, traditional Hawaiian culture that emphasized the value of kupuna (elders) passing knowledge to their young and the new American culture that emphasized Christian Congregational values. She wanted to see her Native Hawaiian people achieve moral stability and to be trained effectively to succeed (Cummings).

Pauahi had witnessed the violence in 1874 when the supporters of Queen Emma had thrown electors loyal to Kalakaua from the windows of the Courthouse (Haig, 2008: 5). According to Queen Liliuokalani’s autobiography, the death of the young heir to the Kamehameha monarchy, Leiopapa a Kamehameha, was elicited by a drenching by his father, causing him to die of a fever (Liliuokalani, 1898.12-13).  Pauahi's trips to Europe brought her a realization of other excesses of monarchial rule. Pauahi was committed to completing the transition of Hawaii from monarchial rule to an egalitarian form of government. She refused to assume the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1872 upon the death of Lot, King Kamehameha V (King, 2006: 23).

The museum was built in the Romanesque Revival style, indicative of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and other major natural history museums of the era (Kent, 2000: 1-5). Construction began in spring 1888 and was completed in summer 1890. The exhibits were completed later, in 1903 (Kent, 1965: 188-189). Under the direction of Harvard educated William T. Brigham, the Museum came to be world-renowned in the study of the natural and cultural history of Polynesia (Gon, 2009: 13).

In conclusion, the establishment of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum as an adjunct to Kamehameha Schools was the culmination of a process that was begun in 1815 in New England and transferred to Hawaii in 1820. The intent of Charles Reed Bishop and most assuredly that of his late wife was to create a Native Hawaiian citizenry of commoners (maka’ainana) educated in moral, civic and scientific disciplines, with a strong sense of industriousness. Locating a museum showcasing the past culture on the School grounds was viewed by Charles Reed Bishop as a necessary part of the education of young Hawaiians. With an educated citizenry seen as a pre-requisite for democratic government, many of the graduates of Kamehameha Schools went on to assume high positions in government, commerce and science, in the Territory of Hawaii in the 20th Century.

Beth Kyohara research work with Chris Haig in Feb. 2004, and then more research by George Casen working with Chris Haig in 2012.


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