Friday, August 5, 2011

Oahu's Bishop Museum: Paradise Indoors

The subdued interiors of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu will soothe visitors who need a day off from scorching in the sun—and its vastly entertaining collection is a must-see for any fan of Hawaiian culture. The museum grew from the personal collection of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, with many of the items handed down through the generations preceding the lifetime of her great-grandfather, King Kamehameha I. She was the Great One's last living descendent.

The several-acre, campus-like grounds are anchored by the Hawaiian Hall, where the story of the Polynesian migrations to the Hawaiian homeland is depicted in detailed (but not overwhelming) exhibits along the open railings of a three-story grand hall. The open design is made intimate by artful lighting and objects hanging in the interior space (like a huge whale), a layout very similar to the museum of evolution at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

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The Hawaiian Hall is attached to the Polynesian Hall, a multi-roomed repository of esoterica from the many island nations of the South Pacific. Also in the mix are a Hawaiian Sports Hall of Fame, a museum devoted to changing exhibits, a Planetarium, and a gift store that matches any in Hawaii.

Across the lawn is the fairly new (2006) Science Learning Center, which, in spite of the off-putting name, is a place where parents turn loose the kids to go nuts amid two-levels of spouting volcanoes, screeching jungle tunnels, and the splash of simulated waves. More details about Hawaii's best museum begin on page 68 of Oahu Trailblazer.