Kauai Museum, located in the Albert Spencer Wilcox Building in Lihue, tells the fascinating story of the Garden Isle, with exhibits of art, photographs and historic artifacts. The museum offers insights into Kauai, telling the stories of the original Polynesian voyagers who first settled the island, New England missionaries who brought the word of God and immigrant plantation workers who toiled in the fields of sugar and pineapple. There are three permanent exhibits, including “The Story of Kauai,” which highlights the geological wonders of the oldest major Hawaiian island, including Waimea Canyon and Na Pali, as well as the story of ancient Hawaiians and the later immigrants who came from around the world to make the Garden Isle their home. Missionaries, Capt. James Cook, sugar barons and camp house laborers are all part of this narrative. The Juliet Rice Wichman Heritage Galley features displays of historic calabash bowls (native kou umeke), priceless Niihau shell leis, monarchy-period furniture and portraits of movers and shakers from days past, including members of the influential Wilcox family. The Oriental Art Gallery features exquisite pieces of china, sculptures and Asian art. As you make your way around the museum, here are some things you may learn about what makes Kauai special: This was the first island in the Hawaiian chain encountered by Capt. James Cook, who landed his ships Resolution and Discovery at Waimea Bay in 1778. Kauai was the only island that resisted the forceful takeover by King Kamehameha the Great in his bid to unify all the islands. Ultimately, Kamehemeha realized his goal when Kauai’s Chief Kaumualii signed a peaceful agreement in 1810, ceding authority to the monarch. At age 6 million, it is the oldest of the main islands, having the geological time to create the wonders of Waimea (the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”), Mount Waialeale (one of the wettest places on Earth), Alakai Swamp (the largest high-elevation swamp in the world), Waimea River (the only navigable river in the Islands) and some of the finest white sand beaches in the world. Kauai didn’t have traffic lights until 1973, when the first modern contraptions were installed on Rice Street, not far from the museum. Kauai Museum is a private, nonprofit institution that relies on memberships, admission fees and proceeds from its gift shop (no admission charged). The museum is open daily except Sunday (245-6931). Learn more at www.kauaimuseum.org.
Photos courtesy of Kauai Museum