Maui Arts & Entertainment

Celebrate Maui Museums Offers Virtual Tour Through Maui’s Rich History

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The public is invited to 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 unique diversity and history of Maui County.

The exhibits were created for National Preservation Month in May, but 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.


Take a digital trip through Makawao town with an exploration of it’s diverse, and often overlooked history. More than just a “Paniolo Town”, you will journey from ancient Hawaiʻi to the modern revitalization through rare photos.

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,” said Matthew, adding that the people of Makawao are dedicated to preserving the history of their community.

The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum celebrates the multi-ethnic 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 Hawaiʻi: How they got here, what they did here, and what they left behind.”

The Old Lahaina Prison highlights what little is known about the Native Hawaiian prisoners in a virtual tour. 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, sailor’s 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.”


Maui Historical Society celebrated their Annual Lei Day Heritage Festival with a virtual lei contest on Friday, May 1, 2020. The lei contest entries and winners are displayed as part of their digital exhibit, made of a variety of styles and mediums.

Maui Historical Society Director Sissy Lake-Farm hopes to reinforce the “importance of lei in Hawaiʻi, 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.”

To view all of the Celebrate Maui Museums virtual exhibits, visit Funding for Celebrate Maui Museums is made available by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development.

PC: A woman waters plants outside her plantation camp home. Photo courtesy of the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum.

PC: The K. Matsui building, cornerstone of Makawao town, circa 1926. Photo courtesy of Makawao History Museum.

PC: The Old Lahaina Prison guardhouse stands next to its tall coral walls. Photo courtesy of Ingalls Collection, Lahaina Restoration Foundation.

PC: The lei that brought home first place at the annual May Day lei contest. Photo courtesy of Maui Historical Society.


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