Podcast
Creating Hawai’i

Creating Hawai’i

The conference podcast above and its accompanying “Creating Hawai’i” display case are not merely a history of the Islands, they are also opportunities to examine the concept of “perception vs. reality” with Hawai’i as a point of interest. The curators begin with a common, stereotypical look at the Hawaiian Islands with objects that represent the world’s perception of Hawai’i as a tropical paradise, a stretch of beach and a carefree state-of-mind. Then they use objects to take learners beyond the leis and discover a land of great history and a diverse and inclusive population.

Hawai’i, a collection of islands, is located in the center of the Pacific Ocean, more than 2,300 miles southwest of the mainland United States. The islands were “discovered” in 1778 by British explorer James Cook. The rapid influx of traders, merchants, missionaries and immigrant workers that followed brought an overwhelming Western influence to the Hawaiian Islands, causing a transition from subsistence farming to a cash economy and an unfortunate loss of tradition. The ever-growing presence of outsiders affected native Hawaiians acclimation to change and a different lifestyle. In 1893 US businessmen led an overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i and established a Republic. Despite protests and the opposition of many Hawaiians, the Islands were annexed as a territory by the United States in 1898. The opening of this display is designed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Hawai’i becoming the 50th state in the union on Aug. 21, 1959. From kingdom to republic, and from territory to state, “Creating Hawai’i” showcases the reality of Hawai’i and the extensive changes in tradition and diversity throughout its history.

These media files were created to accompany the “Creating Hawai’i” display case. Use the music and descriptions to explore “perception vs. reality” in the history of Hawai’i.

Blue HawaiiRecord cover (1961)
The Elvis Presley film Blue Hawaii reinforced many popular stereotypes of Hawaiian life.

 

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PuPu (about 1824)
Plants and animals have always been part of the imagery and reality of Hawaiian life. A conch-shell horn—a pu—was used for sending messages and signaling a ship’s arrival and departure. This one is from the wreck of the Pride of Hawaii.

 

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Hula FestivalHula Festival (2009)
In the 1970s, renewed interest in native Hawaiian culture reinvigorated the practice of the ancient hula. The annual week-long Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo celebrates the dance. (Courtesy of Ruben Carrillo)

 

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PuProtest song (1893)
Through the lyrics of this popular song, native Hawaiians objected to the overthrow of Queen Lilli’uokalani. Declining numbers in the native population made protests like this ineffectual. Lyrics, in part (Courtesy of Library of Congress):
No one will fix a signature
To the paper of the enemy,
With its sin of annexation
And sale of native civil rights.
We back Lili’ulani
Who has won the rights of the land.

 

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Sugarcane cutter’s hat (1920s)Sugarcane cutter’s hat (1920s)
Cheap cotton hats protected sugarcane workers from the hot Hawaiian sun. The sound selection features a Japanese sugarcane worker’s song.

 

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(Gift of Barbara Kawakami)

 


Ukulele (early 1900s)Ukulele (early 1900s)
The ukulele is not originally Hawaiian. Portuguese sugar workers brought there native instrument, the machete da braca, to Hawai’I, and by 1896 the modified guitars were called ukuleles.

 

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