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The Bishop Museum

The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, designated the Hawaiʻi State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, is a museum ofhistory and science in the historic Kalihi district of Honolulu.  Founded in 1889, it is the largest museum in Hawai’i and is home to the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural and scientific artifacts. Besides the comprehensive exhibits of Hawaiiana, the Bishop Museum has an extensive entomological collection of over 13.5 million specimens, the third largest collection in the United States. The museum is accessible on public transit: TheBus Routes A, B, 1, 2, 7, 10.

Charles Reed Bishop, a Hawaiian philanthropist and co-founder of Kamehameha Schools and First Hawaiian Bank, built the museum in memory of his late wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. She was the last legal heir of the Kamehameha Dynasty, which ruled the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi between 1810 and 1872. Bishop had originally intended the museum to house family heirlooms passed down to him through the royal lineage of his wife.

The museum was built on the original boys campus of Kamehameha Schools, an institution created to benefit native Hawaiian children as outlined in the Princess’ last will and testament. In 1898, Bishop constructed Hawaiian Hall and Polynesian Hall in the Victorian architectural style. The Pacific Commercial Advertiser newspaper dubbed the buildings as “the noblest buildings of Honolulu.” Both Hawaiian Hall and Polynesian Hall stand today and have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hawaiian Hall is home to a complete Sperm Whale skeleton with papier-mâché body suspended above the central gallery. Along the walls are prized koa wood display cases worth more than the original Bishop Museum buildings. It is also home to The Hawaiian Royal Regalia, including the Hawaiian royal crown and the consort’s crown.

In 1940, Kamehameha Schools moved to its new campus in Kapalama. This allowed the museum to expand. Most school structures were razed and new museum facilities were constructed. By the late 1980s, the Bishop Museum had become the largest natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific Rim.

In 1988, construction of the Castle Memorial Building was begun. Dedicated on January 13, 1990, Castle Memorial Building houses all the major traveling exhibits that come to the Bishop Museum from institutions around the world.

The Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center opened in November, 2005. The building is designed as a learning center for children, and includes many interactive exhibits focused on marine science, volcanology, and related sciences.

On the campus of Bishop Museum is the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium, an educational and research facility devoted to the astronomical sciences. There is a lifesize replica of a moai or massive stone idol found in the Polynesian island of Rapa Nui as visitors enter the campus. Also on the campus is Pauahi Hall, home to the J. Linsley Gressit Center for Research in Entomology which houses some 14 million prepared specimens of insects and related arthropods, including over 16,500 primary types, making it the third largest entomology collection in the United States and the eighth largest in the world. An active research facility, Pauahi Hall is not open to the public. Nearby is Pākī Hall, home to the Hawaiʻi Sports Hall of Fame, a museum library and archives, open to the public.

The Bishop Museum also administers the Hawaiʻi Maritime Center in downtown Honolulu. Built on a former private pier of Honolulu Harbor for the royal family, the center is the premier maritime museum in the Pacific Rim with artifacts in relation to the Pacific whaling industry and the Hawaiʻi steamship industry.

From 1968 until September 2008, the Bishop Museum owned and included at the Maritime Center the world’s only surviving sail-driven oil tanker, Falls of Clyde. The ship deteriorated severely, and was eventually closed to the public. The museum had plans to sink the ship by the end of 2008 unless private funds were raised for a perpetual care endowment. On September 28, 2008, ownership was transferred to the non-profit group, Friends of Falls of Clyde, which intends to restore the ship. In October 2008, the Bishop Museum was accused of “incompetence and dishonesty” for having raised $600,000 to preserve the ship but then spending only about half on the ship. The accusation also focused on other decisions about how the money was used.

On the Big Island of Hawai’i, the Bishop Museum administers the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, specializing in indigenous Hawaiian plant life.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Science Association (PSA), an independent regional, non-governmental, scholarly organization that seeks to advance science and technology in support of sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific, has been based at Bishop Museum since PSA’s founding in 1920.

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