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Kalaupapa Treasures: Collections Tour with T Scott Williams

July 23, 2012


It’s that time of year again! Summertime brings many service groups to the isolated Kalaupapa Peninsula, on the island of Molokai.  Sponsored by patient- residents and settlement staff, these visitors have the unique opportunity to stay overnight and serve the community in a variety of ways.  St John Vianney Choir from Kailua is in Kalaupapa for their annual concert at the historic Church of St. Francis. The group has been traveling to Kalaupapa for over a quarter century, to honor the residents with their voices and song. This year, the National Park Service’s Cultural Resources crew was able to give back in the way of a tour of their new collection’s facility. The Cultural Resource Management (CRM) building is Kalaupapa’s newest structure, housing state of the art curatorial facilities to preserve and conserve objects, artifacts, and archive materials that tell the stories of Kalaupapa National Historical Park (NHP) and its residents.

Scott, Kalaupapa NHPS’s Museum Curator, began the tour with a condensed history of the parks museum collections. The first storage facility for the collections was the settlement police station that now serves as the maintenance office.  The collections were moved to their new, modern home in in 2004.

Scott first took the tour through the Mauka lab. The Mauka lab is used for accessioning, cataloguing, and conservation work. Two large freezers are located in the lab, used to prevent deterioration by bug infestation in incoming artifacts and objects remind us that in Hawaii, termites are a very big threat to wooden objects.

Guiding the groupImage through a second door, Scott revealed curatorial storage cabinets which hold rows and rows of books, archives, archaeological artifacts, and personal objects, all priceless reminders of Kalaupapa’s history. A table displays a small collection, representative of the types of objects preserved there, including tools adapted by patients for their specialized use.

The next stop on the tour was the Makai lab. Within the lab, the photography studio is set up, ready to photograph the objects in the collections. The Makai lab stores oversized objects such as furniture,  lightiImageng fixtures, and antiquated medical equipment. The tour ended on the lanai of the CRM building. The Saint John Vianney Choir then shared their stories and histories of Kalaupapa, gathered from their many years of service to the community.

For more information about our collections and our museum facility, please visit our website: or call the park general number 808-567-6802.

By: AM Borthwick

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