Maui News

Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission Launches New Virtual Museum

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Lae ʻO Kaka, Kahoʻolawe. aerial photo of coast somewhere between Lae ʻO Hālona and Lae ʻO Kaka. PC: Photographer Unknown

Lae ʻO Kaka, Kahoʻolawe. Aerial photo of coast somewhere between Lae ʻO Hālona and Lae ʻO Kaka. PC: Photographer Unknown via KIRC Virtual Museum.

Through a two-year grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ 2014 Native American/ Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program, the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission unveiled its virtual museum pilot program: the Kaho’olawe Living Library this week.

This community-informed project presents a collection of publicly searchable images and documents for academic, professional and personal development – all available from the KIRC home page at

“We are proud that an IMLS grant has helped the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission develop its virtual museum,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “This important project makes historic documents and photographs accessible to the public, fostering a greater understanding of the Kaho’olawe culture and heritage and preserving this critical history for generations to come.”


The Kaho’olawe Living Library will continually enable access to Hawaiian artifacts, storied places and archival materials encompassed by and through the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve; provide welcoming opportunities to sustain Hawaiian heritage, culture and knowledge through the collection; and preserve historic Kaho’olawe documents and photos for access by future generations of residents and visitors, thereby perpetuating Native Hawaiian culture. Through the digitization, preservation and global sharing of a perpetually growing collection of Reserve items places and stories, this Living Library can now offer a new means of access to Kaho’olawe.

Organization leaders say that to the people of Hawaiʻi, Kaho’olawe is a symbol of resilience, hope for the future of the Hawaiian Nation and an opportunity to rebuild a cultural heritage. As the only major island in the Pacific that has been archaeologically surveyed from coast to coast, the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve’s current inventory contains an intact record of Hawaiian history and culture.

Its resources extend far beyond its waters; including a vast collection of archival materials such as reports, documents, photographs, negatives, slides, archaeological artifacts, and more. Organization leaders say this unique collection currently includes over 8,500 photographs, 2,500 texts and 10,000 artifacts – all in need of proper preservation in order to be shared with the public.


“A recent survey of community needs and interest in accessing the island’s intellectual resources exhibited a clear demand for library and archived materials, most emphasizing the importance of sharing cultural wealth for all generations in a unique manner that can be blended in spite of differences and changes over the years,” according to the KIRC.

Heading into 2017, KIRC will also be releasing a mobile app that will transform the Living Library from a content management system (database) into an accessible multimedia user experience. Presenting a fully functioning map of Kaho’olawe that enables the user to virtually explore the Reserve and to discover the archived collection piece by piece and story by story, the app will also include “oral history” video segments with stories told by key Kaho’olawe participants.

The project was made possible by IMLS and Kaho’olawe virtual museum partners: Hawai’i Council for the Humanities and Hawai’i Tourism Authority’s Kukulu Ola Living Hawaiian Culture Program.


“Our work relies on the ability to educate as many as possible about the resources offered by and through Kahoʻolawe. With your help, we will see the continued preservation and restoration of this vital symbol of the Hawaiian culture and strengthen understanding of and connection to Kaho’olawe for generations to come,” KIRC representatives said.


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