Visiting Bishop Museum 

Bishop Museum is an artifact in  itself. Built in 1898, you step back in time when you enter into the main hall. 

The stair case you see here is carved from Koa. Elsewhere it is known as acacia. The Koa was cut down at the property of Princess Pauahi’s estate on the big island of Hawaii. 

The Koa was then sent to Minnesota where it was milled and sent back to Oahu where it was put into the museum. 

            A close up of the finniel carving

Charles Bishop, Pauahi’s husband,chose Minnesota because he felt that the Sweeds who lived in Stillwater Minnesota were the best carpenters. 

It was at the bottom of this stair case that a student taking a private evening tour with her class told me about her experience. 

As the guard turned out the lights they stood there and watched as a lightly scented light assend to the second floor and checked out each exhibit case and then ascended up to the third floor and do the same. It then descended to the first floor and was gone. 

Yes there are many types of artifacts and visitors to the Bishop. You never walk away disappointed. 

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Tuesdays at Bishop Museum

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My mind has become very dull. I need to challenge it. By dull, I mean giving children’s tours at Bishop museum has made me complacent. Giving adult tours always keeps me on my toes.

Fridays at Bishop have an abundance of docents and none want to give up their public tours. Not many want to do the children’s tours either. So when the museum re-opened their doors on Tuesdays I jumped at the chance. I knew I would once again be able to do regular adult, public tours.

After the museum had closed it’s doors on Tuesdays, for financial reasons, a way was found to once again welcome the public back that week day.

Kids aren’t my thing. As I had said my brain was starting to atrophy having to talk down to them. When I did get to substitute on Fridays and do adults I was finding I was having a hard time describing artifacts and culture in a more mature way.

Now having started in the last part of 2015 on Tuesdays I am once again researching and trying to switch my tours up to a more interesting subject to keep adults interested. I am not complaining. I love research but the funny thing is I’ve discovered I miss the kids. So starting the first of January we started booking them once again now on Tuesdays.

Guess who is able to do both children and adults? Me! With mixed feelings I have started back with the kids with the provision that I still get to do one public tour each week along with the kids. My brain is being challenged. I do realize now that it takes just as much work to keep the kids interested as it does adults.

Today on my children’s and adult tours I stopped to talk about the Hale Pili. I always ask the children what they think this particular Hale (house) was used for. You can read about it in this past post https://kareninhonolulu.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=524&action=edit

Today with the adults it was interesting as they asked questions I was not prepared for.

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It was a simple question and one that I could not answer. So I had to do research. Someone had asked me where did the adult children who married go when they needed their own houses. Hmmm. Well I knew families did stay together but just how?

What I found was they added on a hale or house in the compound where the parents lived with other families or they built a large Hale to accommodate everyone.  I found this quote from the book ” Arts and Crafts of Hawaii” on page 77,  amusing. “…some persons had no houses but lived on the hospitality of others,” and he refers to such person contemptuously as “o-kea-ili-mai (drift gravel) and “uni-pehiiole” (stone to throw at a rat).” Even back then they had the problems with unwanted guest.

On further research I found hales had one door. It was a very low door so that you had to crawl into the sleeping house. This had a purpose. When winds would blow it helped to keep them from wafting through the dwelling. Also in the middle of the sleeping hale was a small pit to keep a fire burning throughout the night. Though it helped to heat the area its main purpose was to keep spirits that roamed during the night out of the house.

There were many common areas too that everyone shared so it was just a matter of one or two houses being needed for sleeping. Cooking was done by the men, women ate together with the very young children in their own hale, and men ate together in theirs. They had hales for fishing equipment, working on household items such as kapa, baskets and mats.

I never thought about this but it makes sense. They did not have problems with bugs or pest coming into the sleeping hale at night because they did not have any. It was not until the Europeans and whalers started to arrive bringing pest and illnesses with them.

The larger introduced animals also meant big problems as they started to eat the grass off of the Hawaiian’s dwellings! They also ate the grasses and leaves used to make the hales. It gave new meaning to being eaten out of house and home.

I am so happy to be back to the public tours and having this one simple question has given me much to add to my bag of tricks so to speak. I know the kids will really enjoy hearing about the cows eating the houses. Oh those kids they laugh at the darnedest things.

Information about the Hales comes from the book “Hawaiian Culture”page 198-201

When They Call, You Must Go

This is an experience I had years back when Hawaiian Hall at Bishop Museum was undergoing restoration. I love these experiences and enjoy sharing them. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

The sun was out, and the whole Koolau range was in view. Sun and blue skies equal no people at the museum. As I stood in the main entrance a few people passed into the Kahili room. Maybe a couple viewed the art in the vestibule.

In the quiet I heard someone singing. Now you have to remember that lots of people have had ghostly experiences in this hall and I was not sure what I heard. But the sound was definitely there. Then it became muffled. I didn’t want to trudge up the two flights of stairs to check what was going on. The only people who had ventured to the upper exhibit area was a very pleasant Hawaiian couple.
But I still heard the singing and it was coming from above. I called over to security and told them to look into their cameras to see if someone was singing in the photo gallery.
“Yeah, someone is, let me get one of the security over there.”
Now I could hear the singing clearer and it sounded like chanting. The young guard came through the main doors and headed up the stairs. Soon the chanting became louder and I was curious. So I ascended the stairs also.
The doors to the exhibit hall had been closed and now one was ajar. I knew that they were supposed to be opened. I entered and saw the guard talking to the male of the Hawaiian Couple. The woman was in a corner, arms raised in supplication, moving gracefully,chanting. I approached the guard who was now in a mildly heated conversation.
The Hawaiian man was being told that he could not be chanting or singing or doing anything in the museum without permission and that they had to leave.
In the past there have been demonstrations and even artifacts have disappeared and the guard was worried that this could be some kind of demonstration. The gentleman was stating that the things of the museum were part of his ancestry and he gestured around the room.
The woman was still chanting as the discussion went on and then the security received a call from the office asking what was status of the situation. He stated that a woman and man were singing and he was trying to get them to leave.
I on the other hand saw that they were chanting as I had seen many times before in the museum. I did not feel that they were protesters but that they were paying their respects. Although other chanters always requested permission before doing so.
After a time the woman finished and came over to us and started speaking Hawaiian. I only understood a word here and there but, really, had no idea what she was saying. When all was said and done it was explained that she had come to say a prayer or a pule. At least that is what I think she said.
They were from the island of Hawaii. The woman said that she had been called by the spirits of her Kupuna or ancestors. They had been appealing to her to please come to the museum as they were being neglected and hid away. She said that she came to reassure them and to honor them and help them to be at peace. Now she is telling me this in half English and half Hawaiian so I am not sure that I got it all correct. I just knew that maybe my boss, Kealoha, would arrive soon as he would know how to interact.
Really the chanting was beautiful and she was graceful and kind. And I guess when it comes to the Hawaiian culture my heart goes out to that community for all the suffering that has taken place in the past. I knew that once Kealoha arrived  he would make it all well.
I mentioned that though nothing was wrong with chanting and that what she was doing was fine they just needed to make arrangements and then I explained to her why the room that she was in was so changed. She was upset at seeing all of the artifacts, that were once in the room, were gone and it was now just paintings. She felt that was why she was being called. I told her that the room had been restored to its original condition like it was when the Museum opened in 1898.
I told her that many things were going to be different once all restoration was finished and that much more of the Hawaiian artifacts were going to be brought out that weren’t displayed before. She was very happy to hear that and asked if she could go on to the other exhibit areas. I said it was fine as long as she didn’t chant and that Kealoha would be in soon and she could talk to him.
As I got  back to the main floor many people had arrived and so I announced that I would be doing a tour and people began to gather. As I started to talk, Kealoha and the Hawaiian couple entered into the Kahili room. Soon sounds of chanting could be heard. All the heads turned. I explained what it was and let them listen for a while which they did with much appreciation.
As I was into the middle of my tour the coupled left and nodded as they headed out the door. I felt good, I believe the kupuna, also, felt good, and certainly the visitors enjoyed witnessing a bit of the Hawaiian culture. I love it when that happens.
The ancestors had called, they were heard and she answered.

A Tutu By Any other Name is Definitely Not A Tutu (Grandma)

It’s Friday. So I must be at the museum. When I open the door to the atrium to enter what is usually an empty area, I am surprised by a room full of people. Blocking the door on the other side of the room is Emily, a docent my age, holding a beautiful little baby. Cameras are flashing, and the room is abuzz as she stands for this photo opp.

Hmmm, what is going on I’m thinking as I try to figure out how I’m going to go through this swarm of people. From across the room on the other side near the other entrance are some of the employees I work with. They are dressed ready to do a special performance for the honoree. One of them frantically waves me towards her signalling me to go through the entrance in back of them.

Quickly I snake my way through and pass her and then as I pass the other employee behind her he whispers to me “Bishop Tutu.”I nod and go past  quickly. As I enter the hall I’m perplexed. “Are they designating Emily the Tutu (Grandmother) of Bishop Museum?” She volunteers as a docent she serves on boards and is always available for anything they need her for. And she is a grandmother. So why not?

Getting to the front of the hall I see another employee, Bill, standing out front re-routing people and asking them to please understand that for about 10 more minutes the back atrium is blocked and the museum will then once again be open.

Wow, all this to name someone Tutu of the museum? “Why are you re-routing everyone, why aren’t we (all the docents) allowed back there? What’s the big deal about a tutu? Just then one of the more senior people of the museum came by and said, “Did you get to see Desmond Tutu?

“Desmond Tutu?” Where is he? I saw Emily getting her photo taken but didn’t know he was here. So I was taken to the back where all the upper echelon of the museum milled around, and there sat Desmond Tutu. What a trill to actually see the man. It was more exciting to me then the time I gave Senator Inouye a tour of the museum.

Desmond Tutu served 6 years as Chair for an organization known as the “Elders”, a group formed to use their  influence to support peace building. He was here to take part in a series of ongoing visits for the “Pillars of Peace Hawaii,” a Hawaiian organization  formed to inspire people to compassion, cultivate justice and diversity in our society.

Along with Desmond Tutu at the museum was Gro Harlem Brundtland. She was the first woman Prime Minister of Norway and serves as Deputy Chair of The Elders. Also attending was Hina Jilani a renowned lawyer and pro-democracy campaigner. She is a leading activist in Pakistan’s women’s movement. She has dedicated her life to fight for human rights around the world.

And as for the “Bishop Tutu?” Well it certainly wasn’t Emily though it was her grandson who Desmond Tutu was enthralled with. Hence the Kodak moments. But Bishop Tutu it was. He was the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize  in 1984 for his work in the struggle against apartheid.

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Desmond Tutu. I am not sure if the woman behind him was one of his daughters.

Well you know I wasn’t exactly introduced to him.

ImageSeated to the right of Desmond Tutu are, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Hina Jilani

And no I am not in the photo but just as happy to be able to have taken it.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I must be getting very old. Not because I just had a birthday. Yes, there is no rest for the wicked as I continually have birthdays. I’m getting old because I am actually beginning to enjoy giving tours to the little kids. They have warn me down. They have won me over and I actually prefer them now to giving the adult tours. It must have been that group hug that I got from all of the kids in  a past tour. I actually felt energized after that.

I’ve come a long way since the time when I was giving a tour to pre-schoolers. I was talking about the Lei made of human hair and a whale’s tooth only to look down and see all of the kids were watching their friends two floors below and not a one was listening to me. (See photo below)

P1000025  You have to be quite tricky and interesting to compete with Kamohoalii, the shark god who accompanied Pele from Tahiti to Hawaii.

  I have found that it is much more of a challenge and takes quite a bit of studying to find information that will keep their attention. Last week I did a tour for a Hawaiian Immersion school. Normally they are done by Hawaiian speaking guides but scheduling did not allow for that.

Not having enough time that week to learn Hawaiian I hoped that they would forgive me when I told them that my grandson also went to a Hawaiian Immersion School here on Oahu. They were visiting from the outer islands. The teacher said with a big smile, maikaʻi (good, great, fine, etc.) So I felt I was on firmer ground.

DSCN1415Kahili just to the left of the feathered cape

Going into our Kahili room where we have the portraits of the Alii from King Kamehameha to the last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, the children started calling out the names of each alii and their accomplishments. I was left with my mouth open. What were they saying? Did I dare try to add to it? They were giving me the tour.

Turning to the teacher I asked, do you want me to explain about the Kahili? He smiled and said they already knew all that. I was so disappointed as they already knew all about the little prince, Albert Edward, who was my favorite to talk about, I couldn’t even tell them how the Kahili were put together. What a disappointing tour guide I was turning out to be. I grasped at one last tidbit of trivia.

“Do they know about his Kahili?” I asked hopefully. No they donʻt. Happily I took them over to the feather standard shaped like a flower bud and went on to explain how  Prince Albert’s mother, Queen Emma,  had commissioned it to signify the child died like a flower that never had a chance to bloom.

As we left the room I wondered how many more rabbits could I pull out of my hat. When we were almost done with the tour and after not being able to really tell them anything new the last place I took them to was the replica that we have of the first heiau ever built in Hawaii on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is called Wahaʻula.

The first Heiau built in Hawaii in the 13 century in Puna Hawaii

The first Heiau built in Hawaii in the 13 century in Puna Hawaii, Wahaʻula

The kids gathered around the  Heiau and I started to talk when all of a sudden the teacher speaking in Hawaiian talked to the kids for well over a minute. I asked him, fully expecting it, if he had just told them about Wahaʻula. To my surprise he said “I told them to pay attention to what you were saying.” I breathed a sigh and went on.

I was proud of the kids even though they didnʻt need me along. They were well versed in their culture. They knew their roots. Like Charles Bishop had intended these children were coming to the museum with a full knowledge of their ancestors and seeing first hand what their kupuna  (elders) had accomplished.

Maikaʻi

 

 

Alfred Shaheen Brings Aloha Friday to Bishop Museum

It was Aloha Friday at Bishop Museum. docents were needed so I volunteered. Helping out at these affairs is always a treat. I know the Museum appreciates docents being there but I so appreciate being able to see openings of special exhibits first hand also. It’s a win, win situation.

This evenings event was the opening of the Alfred Shaheen collection exhibit. When I think of Aloha Wear I’m inadvertently thinking Alfred Shaheen.

This is one of Shaheen’s tunics. He produced all his prints here in the islands and made his own cloth. He sent his textile artist  to the Bishop museum  to  get ideas from the ancient Hawaiian Kapa cloth designs.He also supplied them with rare  books of native Hawaiian Prints.  He wanted to keep the theme of the islands  in his cloth production. (Hi Fashion, “The Legacy of Alfred Shaheen” pamphlet)

Many a time I’ve been at the department store asking for dresses that are along these lines not knowing that it was Shaheen,s styles I was thinking of.

Of course you can’t find such sundresses or mu’us anymore. In fact your lucky if you can find a sundress period. And this is Hawaii. What else would you wear.

I guess I will have to haunt the used clothing stores now if I want to find anything like these. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to wear these fitted styles so it is probably best there not around  anyway. I would only feel miserable trying to fit into them.

Elvis Presley wore Shaheen in the move “Blue Hawaii.”

Oh for the good old days.

Shaheen was at the height of his popularity during the 50’s and 60’s. I came to the islands in the 60’s and that is probably why I would love to have these dresses. The older I get the more I long for things from the past.

Yes at one period in time I was able to wear dresses like this. And what’s more I did not look out-of-place. I still wear Mu’u mu’us but they are the full ones and only at the museum because, unfortunately, nobody wears them anymore. Too bad.

A month of Aloha Fridays can be taken care of by all these Aloha Shirts. Casual Fridays are still popular among the male office workers.

Next week will be the Shaheen fashion show. I’ll be working then too. Can’t wait. If you have the chance to come down to the museum the exhibit will be at the Castle Memorial building until February 13 4, 2013. Aloha

Take Sesame Street to Bishop Museum

Let there be light!

Not only is it sunny here in Hawaii but like they say on Sesame Street, “Sunny Days, chasing the clouds away….” and that is what being here on the most (IMHO) famous street in the world does for me.( Well I guess there is Number 10 Downing Street and 221 B Baker Street)

Sesame Street has come to Bishop Museum once again and it will be here until July 7th. The next Kodak moment with Elmo will be on May 27th. So if you want to walk down memory lane or make points with the little ones, drive on down, or as the case may be fly on over to Bishop Museum and knock on Oscar’s can, or pick up some groceries at Mr. Hooper’s store.  Stop in and say hello to me if you do. I’m in the main hall every Friday morning.

The first time Sesame street appeared at the museum I actually started crying I was so touched to actually see the set.

Knock on Oscar’s trash can or sit on the stoop of 123 Sesame street. You never know who may pass by.

I was taking a break when I walked in to the setting up of this exhibit and only had my phone with me. Sorry for the poor quality of photos, but you get the picture.