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Take a virtual tour through Maui’s rich history

By Staff | Jun 18, 2020

The Old Lahaina Prison guardhouse stands next to its tall coral walls. PHOTO COURTESY OF INGALLS COLLECTION, LAHAINA RESTORATION FOUNDATION.

LAHAINA – Experience important pieces of Maui’s past with Celebrate Maui Museums’ new digital exhibits.

Celebrate Maui Museums is a collaboration from the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, Lahaina Restoration Foundation, Makawao History Museum and Maui Historical Society to highlight the wonderful, unique diversity and history of Maui County.

The exhibits were created for National Preservation Month in May, but they will be kept online indefinitely for the community to appreciate.

Travel through the storied history of Makawao Town. Learn a Plantation Era Portuguese bean soup recipe. Discover the struggle of Lahaina’s Native Hawaiian prisoners. View and celebrate the winning lei of the annual May Day festival.

The Old Lahaina Prison highlights what little is known about Native Hawaiian prisoners in a virtual tour.

The K. Matsui Building, the cornerstone of Makawao Town, circa 1926. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MAKAWAO HISTORY MUSEUM. 

While the prison was built to detain rowdy whalers on shore leave, it also housed Hawaiians who had been arrested. Whalers wrote of lounging about until their ship captain claimed them, but native prisoners often had to work in backbreaking labor during their incarceration.

“In fact, sailors had a very different experience in the prison than Native Hawaiians, especially commoners, did,” said Lahaina Restoration Foundation Deputy Executive Director Kimberly Flook.

“We hope that by viewing this exhibit, the visitor will have a clearer picture of prison life in Lahaina, seeing that the removal of freedom and choice from an individual is never an easy thing.”

Take a digital trip through Makawao Town with an exploration of its diverse – and often overlooked – history.

More than just a “Paniolo Town,” viewers will journey from ancient Hawaii to the modern revitalization through rare photos.

A woman waters plants outside her plantation camp home. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ALEXANDER & BALDWIN SUGAR MUSEUM. 

Katie Matthew from the Makawao History Museum shared her passion for bringing this diversity to the forefront.

“Both historic documentation and physical research documenting the history of (Makawao) sparsely exist, and with the changing times, the history is being lost,” Matthew said, adding that the people of Makawao are dedicated to preserving the history of their community.

The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum celebrates the multiethnic heritage and culture of the Plantation Era.

While this melting pot of cultures is the norm on Maui today, it would not exist without the plantation workers who lived together, sharing their language, food and celebrations with one another.

The coming together of many different heritages was not without its conflicts, but they came together and learned about one another with open hearts and minds.

“It is important for people to learn about Maui’s history, so they can understand Maui today,” said Holly Buland, assistant director of the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum.

“We hope people will come away with a better understanding of the lives of the immigrants who came to Hawaii – how they got here, what they did here and what they left behind.”

Maui Historical Society celebrated its annual Lei Day Heritage Festival with a virtual lei contest on Friday, May 1, 2020.

Made of a variety of styles and mediums, the lei contest entries and winners are displayed as part of the digital exhibit.

Maui Historical Society Director Sissy Lake-Farm hopes to reinforce the “importance of lei in Hawaii – that the symbol of a lei shows as a gesture of aloha. Make a lei, give a lei and wear lei. A rich tradition that we can uniquely call our own.”

Without practitioners of this Hawaiian tradition, it may be lost with the passage of time.

To view all of the Celebrate Maui Museums virtual exhibits, visit lahainarestoration.org/celebrate-maui-museums/. Funding for Celebrate Maui Museums is made available by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development.