‘A tremendous community response’

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    From left, Delia Akaji, Randy Wichman and Donna Stewart work on some digital photo conversions at the Kauai Historical Society office in the Historic County Building on Rice Street in Lihue.

The Kauai Historical Society has been overwhelmed by the public’s response to their “Kauai Historical Society Photo Scanning Project.” The society was asking for $8,500 for the project through public donations, but as of Tuesday afternoon they had received over $15,000. That’s not including $8,500 that Paul Kosasa, the owner of ABC stores, offered to underwrite for the entire project.

“He called Delia (Akaji) and says, ‘I’m more than happy to underwrite the $8,500. Just write a cover letter and send some supporting documents,’” said Randy Wichman, KHS president. “We cannot take advantage of that because the public has spoken in terms of their overwhelming response.”

By acquiring more than the $8,500 the historical society was originally seeking for the project to upgrade their outdated equipment, it opens more avenues for other equipment upgrades to continue the preservation of the rich history that exists on Kauai. This includes purchasing new computers to replace the older models the staff has been forced to use in the past. With the public’s donations, the historical society has more financial breathing room to do its main functions.

“Under Randy’s leadership, the society is and will continue to make huge strides in bringing our systems up to speed and in making significant internal improvements in the coming year,” KHS administrator Delia Akaji said of Wichman’s efforts as president thus far in his tenure.

Wichman explained the historical society’s role is the preservation of 2D (two-dimensional) historical items, as opposed to the 3D items the museum collects and displays. Nearly all of the 2D items the historical society is tasked with preserving can only be found on Kauai, and their preservation is essential for all of Hawaii and the world for historicity.

The entire historical society on Kauai is devoted to the preservation and conservation of 2D items exclusively on Kauai and Niihau. They have the biggest pictoral depository of Kauai in the world, and look to continue on with digitizing 15,000 more maps, photos, letters and, now, photographic negatives.

“We are digitizing our maps and we are just starting, so we are going to ask Paul (Kosasa) if he would consider jumping in and helping digitize our map collection,” said Wichman.

The earliest map the historical society has dates back to 1824, just another example of the living history the society strives to maintain in the quickly digitizing world.

“This is a huge step for the society in moving us forward with our digital photograph collection, benefiting our island and ensuring Kauai Historical Society’s ability to serve our community,” Akaji said of the scanner project.

The historical society is entirely funded through member fees and is open to the general public.

The staff is now focused on digitizing 15,000 historical photos. They have already digitized 15,000 photos, a process that has been extremely time-consuming. They are looking forward to taking advantage of the scanners and computers acquired due to the response of the public appeal for funds.

“When you include Paul’s offer, we have raised over $23,000,” Wichman says with a sense of astonishment. “The donations are still coming in.”

The donations from the general public will be accepted until the end of 2019. Most of the donations collected thus far for the project range from $50 to $4,000.

“It’s critical,” Wichman said of the need to update to the digital format, as Akaji nods in agreement. “If we don’t digitize our history, we’re going to lose it. Paper disappears, paper burns, paper turns to dust, paper molds.”


Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or rcollins@thegardenisland.com.

  1. Lee March 18, 2019 1:09 pm Reply

    Bravo to KHS and the donors in the community for preserving Kauai’s stories!

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