Honokaʻa's Cultural Heritage Center

Jan 3, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

One of Hawai‘i’s learning centers is near the northeast coast of Hawai‘i Island. The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo offers courses for credit and for lifelong learning at its adjunct location in Honoka‘a. But it’s also home to some remarkable cultural and historical artifacts of North Hawai‘i. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has more from Hawai‘i Island. 

For more than 40 years, the Honoka‘a Hospital served the medical needs of the local community. The hospital closed in the mid-1990’s, when Hāmākua Sugar shut down. Today it’s home to the North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center. Momi Naughton is the Director of the Heritage Center.

Momi:   “The Heritage Center or museum was conceived since the 1970s. Someplace where they could celebrate their heritage and honor those who came before.  There’s a superficial concept about what local residents are all about.  The whole emphasis is for a more realistic view of a community’s heritage.”

Naughton says their material has come from the community.

Momi:   “We needed to give a little smattering of the different ethnic groups that have come to our area.  We have everything from the old shave ice machine from Hasagawa Store to binoculars used in Europe in the 442nd.  We’re excited about the oddball things we have that tell a pretty neat story.  People don’t realize there were African Americans, people from Germany, Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Portuguese,  Puerto Rican, and Filipino are the main groups we’re focusing on.”

Naughton says the exhibits capture the foods, dances, clothes and artwork that tell the story of the residents, the good and the bad.  She also helps residents research their own history.  And Naughton says not all the artifacts are serious in nature.

Momi:   “I like the kitschy stuff, the knick knacks. We have a very fun collection of store memorabilia.”

The Heritage Center also has a changing exhibit, which right now is all about Waipio Valley.  Funding for North Hawai'i Education and Research Center comes from University of Hawai'i, grants and donations, and many hours of volunteer labor.