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Hawaiian Hall, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

Honolulu, Hawaii

The Bishop Museum is a history and science museum that boasts the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts. Founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop, the museum has expanded to include millions of additional artifacts, documents, and photographs about the cultures of Hawaii and other Pacific Islands.

RAA was asked to undertake the reinstallation of exhibitions on three floors in the Hawaiian Hall. We worked closely with the Bishop team to achieve several outcomes for the museum: to interpret Hawaiian history and culture from a native perspective for the first time in history; to restore and make accessible a historic structure; to build audience and strengthen community relationships.

The 12,000-square-foot Hawaiian Hall is considered a masterwork of late Victorian museum design. Within this space, RAA sought to provide a sensitive restoration of the physical interior of the historic gallery, while invisibly outfitting it with state-of-the-art technology. The exhibits were designed with layers of complexity that offered those with great knowledge the pleasure of recognition, and those with less, the chance to learn more.

Inspiration for the design came from conversations with a cross-section of the Hawaiian community—Native Hawaiian artists, scholars, educators, elders, stakeholders, and board members—who shared their stories, experiences, knowledge, perspectives, and dreams for the Hawaiian Hall.

At the opening in August 2009, the results of RAA’s team efforts were universally applauded. The stunning beauty of the restored native koa wood is complemented by an interpretive experience that underscores the Hawaiian culture’s connection to the land and sea, and pays tribute to a culture that is still very much alive and growing.

Size 12,000 square feet

Year 2009

AwardsIndustrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), International Design Excellence Award (IDEA): Finalist, EnvironmentsAIA Honolulu Design Award: Merit Award