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News and Events

History of the Kaua`i Museum

Lee Lacocca - Monday, April 17, 2017

On February 3, 1922, a letter from Emma Mahelona Wilcox was read to the board of trustees of the Kaua`i Public Library Association Limited, in which she offered to give $75,000.00 for the erection of a county free library in the memory of her husband, Albert Spencer Wilcox. In October of that year, Hard Wood, one of Hawai`i’s foremost architects, was selected to design the building, which was officially dedicated on May 24th, 1924.

In April 1954, a museum committee was named with Juliet Rice Wichman as the chairman and Dora Jane Cole as a 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 in incorporating 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 Hide 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 Oriental 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 student’s range from kindergarten through grade 12.

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

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

Our mission continues to be to 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 our Main Gallery and Mezzanine Gallery change regularly.