Founded in 1889 by Charles R. Bishop as a memorial to his wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the museum began as a repository for the royal possessions of this last direct descendant of King Kamehameha the Great. Today it's the state's designated history and culture museum. Its five exhibit halls house almost 25 million items that tell the history of the Hawaiian Islands and their Pacific neighbors. The latest addition to the complex is a 16,500-square-foot natural-science wing with a three-story simulated volcano at its center, where twice-daily "lava melt" shows take place much to the enjoyment of younger patrons. Newly renovated Pacific Hall (formerly Polynesian Hall) now focuses on the history of the entire Pacific region.
The Hawaiian Hall, with state-of-the art and often interactive displays, teaches about the Hawaiian culture. Spectacular Hawaiian artifacts—lustrous feather capes, bone fishhooks, the skeleton of a giant sperm whale, photography and crafts displays,
and an authentic, well-preserved grass house—are displayed inside a three-story 19th-century Victorian-style gallery. The building alone, with its huge Victorian turrets and immense stone walls, is worth seeing. Also check out the planetarium, daily tours, lauhala-weaving and science demonstrations, special exhibits, the Shop Pacifica, and the recently opened Bishop Museum Café, which serves ono (delicious) Hawaiian food by local restaurant, Highway Inn.