Bishop Museum

From Academic Kids

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The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is home to the world's largest collection of Polynesian artifacts.
Logo of Bishop Museum

The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, designated the Hawai'i State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, is a museum of history and science in the historic Kalihi district of Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu. Founded in 1889, it is the largest museum in Hawai'i and is home to the world's largest collection of Polynesian cultural and scientific artifacts. Besides the comprehensive exhibits of Hawaiiana, the Bishop Museum has an extensive entomological collection of over 13.5 million specimens, third largest collection in the United States.



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Charles Reed Bishop built his museum in honor of his wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, to preserve royal heirlooms passed down to him upon her death.

Charles Reed Bishop, Hawai'i philanthropist and co-founder of Kamehameha Schools and First Hawaiian Bank, built the museum in memory of his late wife Bernice Pauahi Bishop. She was the last direct descendant princess of the Kamehameha Dynasty that ruled over the Kingdom of Hawai'i since 1810. Bishop had originally intended the museum to house family heirlooms passed down to him through the royal lineage of his wife.

The museum was built on the original boys campus of Kamehameha Schools, an institution created to benefit native Hawaiian children as outlined in the Princess' last will and testament. In 1898, Bishop constructed Hawaiian Hall and Polynesian Hall in the Victorian architectural style. The Pacific Commercial Advertiser newspaper dubbed the buildings as "the noblest buildings of Honolulu." Both Hawaiian Hall and Polynesian Hall stand today and have been declared National Historic Landmarks, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hawaiian Hall is home to a complete sperm whale skeleton with paper mache body suspended above the central gallery. Along the walls are prized koa wood display cases worth more than the original Bishop Museum buildings.


In 1940, Kamehameha Schools moved to its new campus in Kapalama. This allowed the museum to expand. All school structures except Bishop Hall, which had been added to the National Register of Historic Places, were razed and new museum facilities were constructed. By the late 1980s, the Bishop Musem had become the largest natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific Rim.

In 1988, construction of the Castle Memorial Building was begun. Dedicated on January 13, 1990, Castle Memorial Building houses all the major traveling exhibits that come to the Bishop Museum from institutions around the world.


On the campus of Bishop Museum is the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium, an educational and research facility devoted to the astronomical sciences. On the lawn in front of the planetarium is a lifesize replica of a moai or massive stone idol found in the Polynesian island of Rapa Nui. Also on the campus is Pauahi Hall, home to the J. Linsley Gressit Center for Research in Entomology. An active research facility, Pauahi Hall is not open to the public. Nearby is Paki Hall, home to the Hawai'i Sports Hall of Fame, a museum library and archives, open to the public.

The Bishop Museum also administers the Hawai'i Maritime Center in downtown Honolulu. Built on a former private pier of Honolulu Harbor for the royal family, the center is the premier maritime museum in the Pacific Rim with artifacts in relation to the Pacific whaling industry and the Hawai'i steamship industry. On the Big Island of Hawai'i, the Bishop Museum administers the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, specializing in indigenous Hawaiian plant life.

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