Hawaii Mom Blog: Something for Everyone at The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

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April 30, 2015

Something for Everyone at The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

We recently took the kids to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum (more commonly known as the Bishop Museum).

Founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in honor of his late wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family, the museum showcases a vast collection of Hawaiian artifacts that are both integral to preserving Hawaii's past and perpetuating the traditions and customs for generations to come. 

In addition to being the home of the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific artifacts and natural history specimens, the Bishop Museum houses interactive exhibits and displays that appeal to visitors of all ages.

The first exhibit we went to during our visit was Dinosaurs Unleashed (runs through September 7).  Here my kids saw some of their favorite dinosaurs (like the Tyrannosaurs Rex), and learned about some new ones (like the Maiasaura - pictured below, left).

Although some of the animatronic dinosaurs were a bit scary and loud, the kids had fun watching them, and they especially loved all the fun photo ops.

There were also a few interactive displays where kids could dig for fossils and make bone imprints.

Digging for fossils.
Next we headed to Tradition and Transition: Stories of Hawai‘i Immigrants, which focused on Japanese immigrants.  Here we saw a variety of different displays signifying the importance of Japan's and Hawaii's ties.  One of my favorite exhibits was the letter from Emperor Meiji in January, 1882 (pictured below, front of case), in which "the emperor humbly rejects Kalakaua's suggestion to form a federation of Asiatic countries with Japan as a leader."  Talk about a history lesson!

We then took a quick stroll through the Nā Ulu Kaiwi‘ula - Native Garden as we headed down to the Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center.
The Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center had a lot of cool exhibits which focused on Hawaii's environment.  The gigantic volcano was a focal point, through which the kids could crawl, look at fun displays, and even slide.

My kids really enjoyed walking down the "lava tube" - it was so cool with all of the fluorescent objects and creatures.
Nani I Ka Hala is a new exhibit that just opened a few weeks ago.  It showcases the beautiful products made by weaving hala, as well as the importance of hala throughout Hawaii's history.

It was very neat to see all that is made with hala - baskets, purses, and even sails!

There was a very nice display of Papale (hats), and a very fun station which donned hats on everyone who was in front of the camera.  The kids got a kick out of "trying on" different hats.

My personal favorite exhibits were in Hawaiian Hall. The three floors of this prestigious hall represent Kai Akea (Hawaiian gods, legends, and beliefs); Wao Kanaka (daily life); and Wao Lani (ali‘i and key moments in Hawaiian history).

The number of Hawaiian artifacts in Hawaiian Hall is so impressive.  We saw everything from statues of gods made from wood and rocks to necklaces made from animals' teeth, and even beautiful feather cloaks made for the ali`i.

We saw objects that told stories of how the people of ancient Hawaii lived, fought, work, dressed, and played, and it was just fascinating to see glimpses of this era of royalty.
Hale Pili
Whale Tooth Pendant
Mamo Cloak
Papa He`e Nalu - a favorite surfboard of Duke Kahanamoku
The Hawaiian Hall just radiates an historic and regal aura that was associated with the old days of Hawaii. 

I also loved that there were interactive stations throughout the Hawaiian Hall.  The kids beat kapa, pretended to pound poi, learned some hula, and more.
Using an i`e kuku (kapa beater)
I probably could've spent all day just in Hawaiian Hall reading about every single artifact and admiring the beauty and detail of everything on display, but there was still so much more to see (and my kids were getting a bit restless).

The Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kāhili Room displayed the Kahili (feather standards) - symbols of the Hawaiian ali`i.  They were used to not only announce the presence of ali`i, but also to protect them spiritually.

Pacific Hall, a recently-renovated gallery, is all about Oceania - the people, the traditions, the culture.

I loved the model canoes display, and there were many more interactive displays for the kids, including one where they could build their own mini canoe.
The Picture Gallery showcased some of the paintings and photos from the Bishop Museum's Library and Archives.
William Charles Lunalilo, as a boy

The Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, where photos and stories of Hawaii's prominent sports figures lined the walls of Paki Hall, was one of my husband's favorite exhibits.

The Bishop Museum also has hundreds of shells on display.


We also watched the planetarium show, In My Backyard - my kids' favorite part of their entire visit to the Bishop Museum.

Waiting in the planetarium lobby
We arrived 15 minutes before show time, and there was already a line, but thankfully the lobby was full of cool things my kids could watch while my husband and I stood in line.

My kids absolutely loved the 25-minute planetarium show and were snapping and singing along with all of the other kids.  They "oohed" and "aahed" when the huge planets moved across the screen, and thought it was neat when all of the stars showered down from the night sky.

Our family really enjoyed our time at the Bishop Museum, and I personally loved that there were many hands-on displays to keep kids engaged while learning at the same time. 

There really is something for everyone at the Bishop Museum.  Whether you're a history buff or a cultural enthusiast, a kama`aina or visitor, an educator or student, a kid or kid-at-heart, the variety of exhibits and displays are sure to please. 



The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 847-3511

The Bishop Museum is open Wednesday to Monday 9am to 5pm (closed Tuesdays and Christmas Day, December 25).  Click here for admission prices (kama`aina prices available); free parking.

Thank you to the Bishop Museum for hosting our visit.

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