A trio of new museums to explore in Hawaii

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The 2018 eruption of Kilauea caused the closure of Jaggar Museum in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but several exhibits have been moved to the new Pahoa Lava Zone Museum.
The 2018 eruption of Kilauea caused the closure of Jaggar Museum in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but several exhibits have been moved to the new Pahoa Lava Zone Museum. Photo Credit: HTA/Tyler Schmitt

Hawaii is inching toward reopening, and in the coming months, state officials hope to once again welcome visitors without making them undergo a 14-day self-quarantine. The order remains in effect for now, but when travelers return to Hawaii, there will be a trio of new museums and educational centers to explore.

Each of the new facilities provides insights and interactive lessons on key characteristics of Hawaii that are essential to understanding its history, culture and environment. Aloha State visitors can dive deeper into the state's marine life, learn more about the powerful forces that pushed the island's above the ocean's surface, and take a trip back in time to see how Hawaii residents who were rejected as outcasts refused to forfeit their dignity and created their own community out of nothing.

• Kauai Ocean Discovery opened its doors during the height of humpback whale season in January. Located inside the Kukui Grove Center in Lihue, the educational facility is affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

The focus of the exhibits and displays is on Hawaii's native ocean life, including humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, albatrosses, and other endemic creatures. Videos, hands-on activities, and staff help explain life in the ocean, animal adaptations, and the impacts of humans on sea conditions.

Visitors will also find information on the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The center also features a "Keiki Corner" with ocean-themed activities for small children in addition to rotating exhibits, monthly special events, and a weekly ocean "Talk and Tour" every Thursday at 10 a.m. Admission is free.  

• Since 1985 the Jaggar Museum has sat beside the Kilauea caldera in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, housing photos, paintings, and exhibits exploring the explosive geology of the region.

In 2018 park officials were forced to close the popular museum due to earthquake damage suffered during Kilauea's eruption, the largest the island has seen in 200 years. But park officials saved and stored the exhibits, and now several prominent items have been moved to the brand new Pahoa Lava Zone Museum on the southeastern side of the Island of Hawaii.

The area was heavily damaged during the months of earthquakes and lava flows, but has embraced the history as a way to bring people back to the community. The contributions from the park include two paintings by celebrated artist and historian Herb Kane and four displays that detail the volcanology of the archipelago. After the museum opened, the community came out to bolster the collection with items from personal troves and even residents' own backyards, including volcanic glass, lava rocks, and a beehive encased in lava. Television screens show a collection of photos and videos captured during the 2018 eruption.

The museum in the center of Pahoa Village is free and open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. As a volunteer-run site, they request guests call in advance to confirm their visit, (808) 937-4146.

• Molokai is one of the least visited inhabited Hawaiian islands, with just one hotel, no stoplights and limited tourism infrastructure. That means the vast majority of Aloha State visitors never make it to Kalaupapa National Historic Park, where, in 1866, Hawaii started banishing people with Hansen's Disease.

The spit of land at the base of Molokai's towering sea cliffs developed into a working community with the help of Catholic missionaries. When the state lifted its ban on those suffering from Hansen's Disease in 1969, some patients chose to stay and a handful still live in the community today. Now, Hawaii visitors will be able to get an in-depth look at Kalaupapa history and the work of the missionaries right in Hawaii's tourist heart.

The Damien and Marianne of Molokai Education Center is scheduled to open this fall in Waikiki, and will feature exhibits and presentations covering the history of the debilitating disease also known as leprosy and the treatment of those infected. The center focuses on the stories of two key figures credited with leading the effort to establish a functioning community at Kalaupapa: Damien De Veuster and Marianne Cope, who were both later sainted for their efforts. The $6 million, two-story center includes interactive exhibits, historic displays and artifacts, and video presentations. There will also be rotating exhibits; a reflection chapel; a meditation garden with plants from Molokai; and a gift shop selling hand-made items from Molokai artisans.

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