Bishop Museum

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The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, known familiarly as the Bishop Museum is the largest museum in the state of Hawaii and home to the most extensive collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts in the world. Located in the capital of Honolulu on what was once the boys’ campus of the Kamehameha schools, the Bishop Museum presents a rare and extensive opportunity to view Hawaiian cultural history.

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Bishop Museum History

The Bishop Museum was founded by Charles Reed Bishop on 1898. It was meant at first to be a place to house the artifacts and heirlooms of Hawaiian royalty he inherited from his wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. She was the last heir of the Kamehameha dynasty that ruled the Hawaiian Islands from 1810-1872.

The Kamehameha Schools were another part of Princess Bernice’s legacy, which is why her husband chose to house the family’s pieces on the boys’ campus in Honolulu. Originally building two new structures, Hawaiian Hall and Polynesian Hall, the growing popularity of a museum dedicated to the Polynesian heritage soon forced the school to relocate to new grounds in Kapalama in 1940. Today, both of those original buildings are entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Throughout the twentieth century, the holdings of the Bishop Museum grew to include the complete skeleton of a sperm whale, authentic koa wood display cases worth more than the buildings themselves, as well as an extensive library which contains over 50,000 titles dedicated to Polynesian cultural with an emphasis on the Pacific Ocean and Hawaii.

In addition, three prized Hawaiian institutions call the campus of the Bishop Museum home. The first is the J. Linsley Gressit Center for Research in Entomology which is located in Pauahi Hall. This active research center is not open to the public. However, the over 14 million prepared insect specimens and other arthropods, which include some 16,500 primary types rank it as the third largest entomological research institution in the United States and the eight largest in the world.

The other two major institutions that call the Bishop campus home are the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium and the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame. The Planetarium offers three daily shows to Bishop Visitors that concentrate on the unique skies of the Pacific, much different than most mainland planetarium presentations.

Because of its massive collections and dedication to serving the history and interests of native Hawaiians, the Bishop Museum is known as The Hawaii State Museum of Cultural and Natural History.

Bishop Museum, the Main Attraction

Like most major museums, the Bishop Museum offers visitors the opportunity to view both permanent collections as well as a constantly rotating series of special exhibitions. Among the most treasured of the permanent exhibits is Hawaiian Hall which takes visitors through the three major realms of Hawaii: Kai Akea (the gods and legends from before the time of man), Wao Kanaka (the place where people live and work), and Wao Lani (the realm inhabited by the gods).

In addition, the planetarium presents daily shows which focus on the Hawaiian skies and the navigation of the Pacific by the stars. Several guided tours are also offered daily in both English and Japanese. The Bishop Museum is open every day except for Tuesdays and December 25th and also offers an extensive educational program to local Hawaiian students and natives. Over 35,000 students travel in groups to Bishop each year and are treated to special, age-specific programs including the opportunity to spend the night at the museum with their class.

Why the Bishop Museum is a Must-See

To many people from the mainland, Hawaii seems like a vacation resort full of beaches, surfing, and luaus. However, the Polynesian people in general and the native Hawaiians specifically have a rich and interesting cultural heritage that is worth exploring. A visit to the Bishop Museum offers travelers the opportunity to engage with that culture in a new and exciting way and appreciate Hawaii on an entirely different level.

Where to Buy tickets to the Bishop Museum

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from The Bishop Museum either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. The Bishop Museum is available on the Go Oahu Card and Honolulu Power Pass.