Embark on an exciting voyage through time, local places and island people with "The Mapping of Hawaii," a traveling exhibit that traces the history of the Hawaiian islands through maps.
The show, which will display dozens of large-scale reproductions of historic maps and prints, opens Saturday at the Bailey House Museum in Wailuku. It continues during museum hours through Oct. 15.
Though historical maps may seem like outdated relics from long ago, they offer a window into present-day issues and give shocking insight into political, sociological, cultural and historical issues. And even more, they're just plain fun and visually really cool, said organizer Susan Halas.
Details on “The Mapping of Hawaii” maps listed from top, with captions provided by Susan Halas.
1778 — This is a French edition of the first printed map of Hawaii as compiled by English navigator Capt. James Cook. Note the inset of Kealakakua Bay in the corner
1798 — This Italian map of the Sandwich Islands (an early name for Hawaii) shows the phonetic spelling for the place names, Hawaii had no written language when it was published. The corner shows a fanciful view of the death of Capt. Cook.
1937 — Early in the 20th century souvenir maps depicting the attractions of Hawaii became popular with visitors. This one was published by Dole in 1937.
"Maps are fun," Halas said. "It's a visual way of learning things. It's something that will tell you more about where you are and how you got there."
The exhibit, created and interpreted by Bryant Neal and Richard Mickelsen, both of Tradewinds Productions Group, will illustrate a story of discovery, adventure and conflict. It starts with the Polynesian migrations of pre-history and continues with examples of maps from the European voyages of exploration, the mapping of the Kingdom of Hawaii, as well as maps made during missionary and plantation days. It also includes Hawaii maps from the Territorial period to the present.
Highlights of the exhibition include a free night for "The Mapping of Hawaii" and a talk by a leading Hawaii map expert.
The free night, featuring a presentation by Mickelsen and Neal, will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 7 during Wailuku First Friday. During regular Bailey Museum hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $2 for children ages 7 to 12.
Then, Hawaii map expert and author Riley Moffat will speak about the mapping of Maui at 4 p.m. Oct. 8 at the museum. Entry is $10. People with vintage or antique maps of Hawaii or other items on paper of possible historic interest are invited to bring them for free evaluation by Moffat and museum staff. Moffat is a noted authority on the mapping of Hawaii and the co-author of three award-winning books, "The Early Mapping of Hawaii," "Surveying the Mahele" and "Mapping the Lands and Waters of Hawaii."
Halas said affordable reproduced Hawaii maps will be offered for sale during the exhibition, so residents and visitors can take the artwork home and hopefully share the important stories that each map shares.
Aside from the rich historical context of the documents, their sheer aesthetic value can be appreciated alone. Maps' colorful illustrations and sometimes exaggerated, misplaced or just, simply put, wrong artwork make the pieces fun to survey, Halas added.
"Whether you want to know the history of where we live or . . . how maps change as history progresses, it's very interesting," Halas said. "One of the most interesting things about maps are the things they get wrong."
Halas discussed her favorite map, the Cook chart, where the bottom left corner shows a fanciful death of Capt. Cook, who's drawn in Italian naval officer attire. Over the years, there have been hundreds of interpretations of the scene, she said, and the historical errors involved in its illustration.
Some pieces evoke a sense of wonder. They transport the viewer to childhood playtimes when hidden treasures were promised at "X" on hand-sketched house maps. Here, the treasure is information and enjoyment, a greater understanding of who we are as island residents by examining our home's pasts.
"I hope people bring their kids, aunties and uncles . . . this is going to be show for us to learn the story and how we get on the map," Halas said.
For more information, call Bailey House Museum at 244-3326 or visit www.mauimuseum.org.
- Kehaulani Cerizo