Association of Hawai‘i Archivists Annual Conference

The reading room at the Kaua'i Historical Society.

I spent Presidents’ Day weekend working. Luckily, I was “working” on the lovely island of Kaua‘i, attending (and helping to coordinate) the annual conference of the Association of Hawai‘i Archivists, which is a statewide network of archivists, librarians, and other information professionals. The conference is a great way for all of us to share what we’ve been doing over the past year. This year, our group was over 40 strong, including 10 members of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Society of American Archivists Student Chapter.

We started our Saturday at the Grove Farm Museum, where we got to check out Curator Moises Madayang’s large-format reproduction setup, which is primarily used for digitizing maps and architectural drawings. Using a series of mirrors and a process called cross-polarization, Moises can create images that are perfectly straight and glare-free.

The only complete set of Garden Island newspapers is stored at the Kaua'i Historical Society.


After lunch we toured the Kaua‘i Historical Society’s archives and library, which are currently housed in the historic county building. Because the building is historic, archives staff aren’t allowed to take the “Mayor’s Office” sign off their door, which occasionally results in visits from some pretty confused patrons!

On Sunday morning, we headed out to the National Tropical Botanical Garden on the south shore, where we got a guided tour of the library and herbarium. Most impressive was the glass-enclosed rare book room, modeled after the one at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Me, giving a 5-minute Pecha Kucha presentation on Shangri La.

After lunch on Sunday, we tried something new: a Pecha Kucha lightning-round session where we got to hear updates about AHA’s activities, the Army Cultural Resources Program, the photo digitization initiative at the Kamehameha Schools Archives, ‘Ulu‘ulu: The Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawai‘i, and the Pacific Island Network of the National Park Service. I discussed Shangri La’s social media efforts and passed out our new social media flyer. (If you’re in the Honolulu area, please be on the lookout for it!)

Finally, the group split up to take self-guided walking tours of the garden “rooms” and the home of Robert and John Gregg Allerton, the garden’s creators.

Lotus plants at sunset in the Allertons' garden.

It sometimes feels isolating to be in the middle of the ocean, so the conference was a nice reminder that the local archival community is supportive and strong. It was great to see the diversity of repositories, and to welcome so many students into the profession. (And it didn’t hurt that dinner was served at sunset, 50 feet from the beach!)


Many thanks to our gracious hosts!

Journey to the East: Ruminations on a Sixteenth-Century Chronicle

Photo by Paul Chesley, National Geographic photographer

In January 2012, Venetian merchant Marco Polo paid a visit to Shangri La’s Playhouse, where he recounted—often humorously—his travels on the Silk Road and the difficulties he encountered attempting to communicate with Chinese emperor Kublai Khan.  The occasion was the premiere of Journey to the East: Ruminations on a Sixteenth-Century Chronicle, an original puppet theater presentation written and performed by father–daughter team Michael and Layla Schuster of the Honolulu-based Hourglass Theatre. Balinese gamelan master and musician Made Widana accompanied the production with original music.

“I always envisioned premiering Journey to the East in the Playhouse at Shangri La,” said Schuster, who played Marco Polo. “I felt that the integration of materials from the Middle East and South Asia collected by Doris Duke during her travels tells a visual story appropriate for Journey to the East.  The Iranian Qajar tilework that surrounds the fireplace and the stained glass window in the Playhouse provide the perfect backdrop for the performance.”

A variety of puppets, including marionettes from South Asia, represented the colorful cast of characters Marco Polo encountered on his journey. Textiles, costumes and objects that Schuster collected during his extensive travels throughout the Middle East and Asia decorated the stage and provided plenty of ambiance.

Photo by Paul Chesley, National Geographic photographer

Schuster, who has a doctorate in Asian theater, got the idea for Journey to the East two years ago in China. He saw an Afghani kilim (carpet) in a bazaar in Beijing and started thinking about Marco Polo’s travels and the complexities of trade and communication along the Silk Route.

As Curator of the East-West Center Gallery in Honolulu, Schuster has devoted his professional career to using material culture to tell stories and to increase understanding between East and West.  His daughter Layla, who played  a young traveler and several other characters in Journey to the East, has a background in South Indian puppetry and modern dance. She currently works as an educator and artist in projects that link theater and community. Michael added, “It was such a great experience working with my daughter Layla and having the opportunity of passing forty years of puppetry experience to her.”