Archives marks centennial, treaties and other docs on display

From today's Advertiser article:
The public will be allowed a rare glimpse at historical government documents and artifacts dating back as far as the Hawaiian monarchy as the Hawai'i State Archives celebrates its centennial today on the grounds of 'Iolani Palace.

The state archives include thousands of pages of legislative records, private papers documenting the history of Hawai'i and thousands of photographs of Hawai'i's leaders and influential figures — all rarely on display.

The "Mahele Book" from the 1850s, when land was split up among the chiefs in the Great Mahele and private land ownership in Hawai'i was started, will be one of the more popular items on display, said Susan Shaner, state archivist.

"Our state archives are unique compared to other states because we have the records of an independent nation," Shaner said.

No other state can boast a collection of kingdom, republic, territory and state governmental records all under one roof, she said.

Celebrations will begin at 1 p.m. today and will feature remarks from Gov. Linda Lingle, followed by entertainment by Ka Pa Hula Hawai'i, under kumu hula John Kaha'i Topolinski. Tours of the archives' storage vault will begin at 2 p.m., and other artifacts and documents will be on display on the ground level of the Kekauluohi Building next to 'Iolani Palace.

Contained deep in the archive's storage vault, normally sealed off to the general public, are some of the most valuable of the state government's collection. They include treaties between the Kingdom of Hawai'i and countries such as Great Britain and Japan, government seals used by Hawai'i's monarchs and even dies used to create the government's official coins.

I am reminded that the first time that many of these treaties were brought out in modern times was for the 1995 trial of Bumpy Kanahele, when his attorney Hayden Aluli subpoenaed the original documents and they were allowed to be brought into the court room. I was there at the time, and though the treaties stayed in sealed boxes, just being in their presence was rather awe-inspiring.

There was also an occasion around that time when we were hosting a diplomat from Spain and my wife Kekula took him to the archives to see in person the Spanish-Hawaiian treaty. It turns out that, if I recall correctly, his grandfather (or great-) was the one who had signed the treaty on behalf of the queen of Spain. He was moved to tears at actually seeing the original document with his country's seal and his kupuna's signature, for "perpetual peace and constant friendship between the Kingdom of Spain and that of the Hawaiian Islands, and between the citizens of the two countries..." This is the power of these living documents, and also reflects the importance of the personal, not just institutional, connections that are still present with other constitutional monarchies with which Hawaii has treaties.

Anyway, these are interesting articles to read for a little retrospective:

Original treaties steal show at Kanahele trial
Honolulu Advertiser, Friday, October 20, 1995

Kanahele's lawyer subpoenas Hawaii treaties
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Friday, October 20, 1995

You can also see photos of the treaties in Keanu's online presentation of Hawaii's Road to International Recovery.

Posted: Thu - August 31, 2006 at 11:12 AM    
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Published On: Aug 31, 2006 11:31 AM
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