Big changes ahead for Kauai Museum

LIHUE — Provided Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs the legislative-approved funding, the Kauai Museum will begin a major renovation project by June.

That, according to Maryanne Kusaka, president of the Kauai Museum Board of Directors, who announced the potential windfall at a first Friday Paina gathering, attended by roughly 60 guests.

“Imua (go forward)!” cheered the lunch crowd after Kusaka announced the expected $776,000 financial boost for the renovation project, which will include an upgrade of the museum’s Heritage Gallery, among other plans. Five phases are outlined in the detailed preliminary blueprints.

“I believe you visitors want to see the way we lived long ago,” she told the guests. “It’s taken three years since I joined the board to put my dream forward.”

A multitude of previously undisplayed Hawaiian artifacts could be either added to the museum or existing displays could be  expanded. New displays will include the facade of an authentic grass hut.

“It will be a good spot for picture taking,” said Jane Gray, Kauai Museum director.

Rock collections, Hawaiian chief feather cloaks and helmets, A 30-foot fishing canoe and Kauaian calabash, thought to be the largest collection of its kind, will be a part of the display.

“It used to take nine generations to make one cloak with all those feathers,” Kusaka said. “Back when they were made for Hawaiian chiefs, the bird catchers sole job was to just go out and gather six to nine features off these tiny birds and then release them.”

It’s those types of Kauaian history legends that Kusaka doesn’t want to see die out as time goes by.

“This will be part of her legacy,” Gray said.

Officials didn’t have an overall estimate of the renovation project, but Kusaka recently told Gray and her staff about a $147,000 donation to the museum, in addition to the governor’s pledge.

“Flora Fujii put us in her will. She did well in the stock market and lived a simple way in a plantation house,” Gray said. “She noticed we were making changes.”

The renovation is expected to take up to three years. One modernization facet will be an interactive map of Kauai.

A separate grant is funding the research for the project. It will include road signage around the island indicating land divisions linked into a museum map where visitors can touch a map and learn more about the region.

“After the renovation, it will be the people’s museum for all ethnicities,” said Gray. “People all over Kauai will be proud of it and be happy to bring their kids here.”

The museum, 4428 Rice St. in Lihue, will be looking for funds to use for landscaping. An expected $125,000 will be needed for extensive landscaping around the building using only indigenous plants.

• Lisa Ann Capozzi, features and education reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or lcapozzi@thegardenisland.com.

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