How much does Chucky Boy Chock enjoy being director of the Kauai Museum?
Let him explain:
“We were at Kokee Memorial Day weekend, I need to be there to rest. But even as tired as I was, I still couldn’t wait for Tuesday to come because Monday was Memorial Day. Sometimes I don’t want to tell my wife that. She might get envious. How can you love work that much? It’s never work.”
Chock took over as director and curator on Jan. 1. He leads a paid staff, docents and volunteers of about a dozen. They are the ones who welcome visitors to the 57-year-old museum on Rice Street in Lihue. Its 21,000 square feet contain thousands of artifacts, documents, portraits and pieces of history that tell the stories of Kauai and Niihau.
Not that he isn’t already busy.
He and his wife Pam own and operate The Pineapple Store on Kuhio Highway. He is a musician, composer and minister. Originally from Kaneohe, he has called Kauai home for nearly three decades and is a well-known figure with a big smile and equally big heart.
“I love it here,” he said.
Chock is passionate about the Kauai Museum and the importance of its role in the community. He believes strongly it is there to share the stories of the past, because the past explains how we got here today. He wants to open its doors to as many people as possible.
The museum is more than a place people should visit. It’s a place they should come to know, he says. It’s a place that should be part of their lives.
He believes the museum is gaining a new following both on Kauai and with guests from the Mainland. He credits the museum team members for their commitment, dedication and attitude that being there is an opportunity to open doors to the past, present and future — to make lasting connections.
“I say at the museum, it’s a new song every day,” he said. “I love that.”
You took over as director of the Kauai Museum on Jan. 1. What’s it been like?
It’s been exciting. It’s a privilege, it’s a godsend. For me, every day is like writing a new song. I’m so passionate about it. It’s hard to share that with people. Never ever in my wildest dreams did I think I would be part of a museum in this capacity.
Things fell in place and the position opened. Like I said, it’s a privilege and honor to be in the lead position there with a wonderful staff, docents and volunteers and a great board. The trustees are outstanding, top to bottom. From Marianne Kusaka right on down, they are unbelievable.
Why is this important to you?
I like history. It’s intriguing. The more searching we do on King Kaumualii, the more we find. And we have a nice team of historians and researchers. It’s almost daily we find little stories, little pieces here and there. Jut a wonderful example, the big story is, does anyone know where the Bible is that Kaumaualii received from Sam Ruggles. Where is that Bible? It has Kaumualii on top, it has his name engraved in gold. The American Bible Institute, everybody is looking for it.
Do we have any idea where it is?
We don’t know. Because when he received that Bible, the story is told, he never put it down. He went into the Waimea River while Queen Deborah Kapule was there. He was wading in the water, reading his Bible. He never put it down. He immersed himself in the word. I find that very intriguing. It’s a reflection of his personality. You hear people talk about how compassionate he was as a person, caring and kind. He always welcomed seafarers, missionaries. He welcomed everybody into his house. He would literally open up his house, step out and let them stay in. That’s how wonderful a person he was. He lived the word aloha. He lived it. He was respected everywhere, from here to the Big island. Everybody admired him. He was always the ali’i nui with the greatest amount of lineage, more than Kamehameha the Great. He was a great king. He was just a neat guy. We all know that story that he never got conquered. I wish I was there just to know him and be around him. He was humble. A great leader.
Why is it important for people to visit the museum?
We’re there to build bridges every day, right here in our own back yard, we want to win our community back to the museum, to have our community take pride in the museum. And it’s happening. This is your museum. As things started to fall in place, more and more of our kupuna are coming to see and hear the stories of Kauai and Niihau. We’re there to tell the stories of Kauai and Niihau. Every island should tell that their story. That’s what we’re doing now. We do it with so much energy. It is an honor to share the stories of Kauai and Niihau.
How do you do that?
The beauty of what we have at the museum is in each artifact, each photo, each portrait. We get to share that. Sometimes, it’s really hard to pick and chose for our docents and volunteers. We say this to them: “You tell stories you’re comfortable with when the visitor comes and our people come. You pick and chose what you want to share and let them pick and chose where they want to go.” From our Hawaiian stories to our Portuguese to our Japanese to our Filipino stories, our second building with the immigrant stories is exciting, too. To see all the different cultures that come and they go into the back building to see our plantation village, that’s exciting. The immigrant stories are there 24/7, every day.
What did you do at the museum before being named director?
I came in as a volunteer to help with events and then it rolled into exhibits. There was always a curator there, they took care of the exhibits. My part was to conjure up new events and come up with ideas to win back the community. That’s what I was there for and I still do that.
Can you put into words what this job means to you?
Before I fall asleep in the evening, I’m ready to come to work. I can’t wait. I don’t think many people can say that. I say that humbly. It’s a newfound passion. It truly is something I love being a part of. The team is there for the good of the museum. Whatever is good for the museum is good for Kauai and Niihau.
I wouldn’t say I’m the best at what I do, but I try my best.
What are some challenges you face?
There is so much to do. One day I’ll be in doing stories on the immigrants, and then maybe a surfer will come in, “Hey Chucky, I got this board to donate,” because we’re going to do our new surf exhibit. That will take time. There’s so much to do. It’s a step at a time getting things done. Sometimes I like to do 10 steps at a time rather than one step at a time. There’s many challenges. All of the sudden I’m getting calls to speak at this conference or fly here to speak at this youth conference.
Do you accept those offers?
If it’s good for the museum, I’m there. That’s another privilege in itself, to represent this institution. The light goes on, I’m there. Just do it.
How do you like the marketing side of things?
I love marketing. I always have. We rebranded the shop. We even got a van, thanks to a donor, had a logo put on that says “Explore Kauai Museum.”
I’m old school, grassroots. Our goal is to one day be in all the airline magazines with a story. I knock on the doors. We’ve done Hawaiian Air, we’ve done Island Air. This month I’ll be meeting with Daniel Chun of Alaska Airlines. He’s going to have a tour at the museum. Hopefully, it warrants us to have a story in their magazine. I believe all airlines should have museum stories at least once.
Are you finding the museum is attracting more visitors from the Mainland?
We’re at that place where we’ve become a wonderful destination now. We’re set up to meet the demands of the visitor, even though there’s more work to do. We’ve come to that place where we’ve become a significant Hawaiian heritage institution simply because every artifact, every portrait, has many beautiful stories. I can’t say enough about Evelyn Ritter, who does all our portraits.
What a typical day for you?
I come in the morning, I check my emails, I respond, then I leave the office. I go in the back building and work on exhibits because there’s a lot to do, exhibit-wise. So I’ve learned to prioritize certain things. I tell myself, “Today I’m going to finish all the whaling ships.” We’re going to place it and tell the stories of the whaling ships. And I will finish. Then I go to our grass shack, I wanted to thatch it with coconut leaves, so we thatched it. It looks pretty good. Got it done.
Then make follow calls, follow up on messages and set up meetings. But there is always, always work to do exhibit-wise or marketing strategies, meeting all the salespeople that come through. And then, we have events. We’re taking a break in 2017 from our festivals, but not by choice, because they’re building a new exhibit center and an elevator for us so that will start in August.
If there is one thing you would want the community to know about the museum, what would be it?
That this is their museum. Those were the last words of the founder, Mrs. Wickman. In 1960, Juliet Rice Wickman opened the museum as its director, and many dignitaries were there. Her final words to the people were, “This is your museum.” I love that.
We want people to use this museum. If you don’t use the museum, it’s nothing.
What did you learn from your predecessor, Jane Gray?
She’s wonderful. She made the transition easy. She told me, “I took it as far as I could, I can’t go the next level.” She told me this: “You can.”
Five years from now, where do you want this museum to be?
A world destination that just shines in the middle of the Pacific. It not only represents Kauai and Niihau but be that shining star of Hawaii and a representative of our state.
So, it’s safe to say, this is not just a job for you?
I live it. I live it.