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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 hstory and cultural 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 museum 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 fish hooks, 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, hula and science demonstrations, special exhibits, and the Shop Pacifica.