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History of Kaua’i Museum



Rice Street looking mauka (Waialeale is obscured by cloud cover). To the right is the newly build Lihue Library and in the distance the Lihue Plantaiton Office and Lihue Store. Electric poles line the street. Eiwa Street is still a driveway leading to the park behind. Visible are the original cut stone curbs. Photograph taken from corner of Rice Estate "Hale Nani."

The Kaua’i Museum was opened in 1960 as a museum of history and art through the efforts of founders who had a community focus vision. For 43 years, Kaua’i Museum has been a bulwark of strength to the community in the areas of culture, art, and the humanities. It lends its support to individuals and to organizations on the local, state and county levels, whenever a call is heard and it is within our means of help.

On February 3, 1922, a letter from Mrs. Emma Mahelona Wilcox was read to the Board of Trustees of the Kaua’i Public Library Association Limited, in which she offered to give $75,000 for the erection of a county free library in memory of her husband, Albert Spencer Wilcox. In October of that year, Hart Wood, one of Hawai’i foremost architects, was selected to design the building which was officially dedicated on May 24, 1924.

In April, 1954, a museum committee was named with Juliet Rice Wichman as the chairman and Dora Jane Cole as member. Kenneth Roehrig was selected as architect. The association of Mrs. Wichman and Mrs. Cole in raising the necessary funds for the new building led to complete involvement of both. On December 3, 1960, The Kaua’i Museum was officially opened with Mrs. Wichman as Director and Mrs. Cole as manager.

When in 1969, the Wilcox Building was returned to the association, plans were made to incorporate it into the museum complex. Under Geoffrey Fairfax’s guidance, the building was renovated and re-opened in December, 1970. Known as the Albert Spencer Wilcox Building, it is an integral part of the museum and offers ethnic heritage and art exhibits. The original museum, known as the William Hyde Rice Building, contains the permanent exhibit, “The Story of Kaua’i”.

Today, The Kaua’i Museum continues to be a two-building complex that tells “The Story of Kaua’i” including the dramatic progression of geography, natural history, ethnological and historical background. We have permanent collections of the Orient influence on Kaua’i, the Hawaiians, Plantation Days and early Missionary influence.

Since 1960 the museum has sponsored a Student Art Show in March and April, exhibiting students work. The students range from kindergarten through grade 12.

The Kaua’i Museum sponsors local artist’ exhibits and the museum has major shows on Kaua’i’s cultural heritage each year. We also offer to the people of Kaua’i free admission to the museum every Saturdays which we call Ohana Day at the museum sponsoring lectures, instructions and works in ethnic crafts.

We are a private non-profit organization governed by a Board of Trustees and receive no financial support from the Federal, State or County agency. We derive our financial support from our Museum Shop, our admissions, membership, private donations and grants from local agencies.

Our mission continues to be tell “The Story of Kaua’i and Ni’ihau” and to preserve these islands’ cultural heritage for the residents of today and tomorrow.

The exhibits in the Main Gallery and Mezzanine Gallery changes regularly.

L-R: Mrs. Dora Jane Isenberg Cole, Mrs. Juliet Rice Wichman
Library opening 1923
Photo taken inside museum, 1994
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