In 1952, Kauai forest ranger Joseph M. Souza, along with Ruth Knudsen Hanner and Isabel Fayé, decided to create a visitor center and natural history museum at Kokee.
Souza then moved two of Kokee’s World War II-era barracks to the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow and rebuilt them to serve as the center and museum buildings, while Hanner and Fayé garnered community support.
Meanwhile, Hanner also organized an expedition for the purpose of obtaining specimens for the museum and carrying out scientific work at Milolii on Napali Coast during August 1953.
Members of the expedition were transported to Milolii from Polihale on a 20-foot flatboat captained by Joaquin K. Malama, and then camped out there or set up house in the Prigge family’s Milolii beach house.
Bishop Museum archaeologist Mary Stacey’s thorough archeological survey of Milolii Valley uncovered five Hawaiian heiau sites and numerous house sites and terraces not already described in Wendell Clark Bennett’s authoritative 1931 “Archaeology of Kauai.”
Stacey also carefully mapped the sites and found a variety of artifacts.
Alison Kay of Poipu and Shirley Trefz of Honolulu worked on a collection of land and sea shells to be exhibited at the museum, Alan Chock of Honolulu gathered plants for the museum, and entomologist Dr. Elmo Hardy collected insects.
Also present at Milolii were Donald Richardson of the U.S. Geological Survey and Howell Walker of National Geographic magazine.
Alan Fayé Jr. of Kauai, on summer vacation from the University of Washington, also participated in the expedition and camped at Milolii Beach, since he had the only boat available to shuttle goods from Polihale to Milolii and transport researchers up and down the coast.
Fayé ‘s boat crew was comprised of Pada Kanahele from Niihau and Blaine Boyden of Kauai, and Fayé recently said that “No words can describe this summer experience! That whole Milolii experience was the most exceptional time of my life.”
Ruth Knudsen Hanner and Isabel Fayé went on to design the museum’s first exhibits, and the Kokee visitor center and natural history museum was opened in November 1953.