Current Exhibits

What You Can Expect to See at the Center

Our exhibits celebrate the history of Honokaʻa town which is one of the most intact towns in Hawaiʻi from the sugar plantation era. Sections include the various ethnic groups that came to Hawaiʻi to work on the plantations, paniolo (cowboys) and ranching history in our area and day to day life in plantation camps.
Waipio Valley

The Shigematsu Family

In 1907, twenty-year-old Denzaburo Shigematsu arrived on the steamship Doric from Fukuoka, Japan to work on the Honokaʻa Sugar Plantation.

Denzaburo was an avid sportsman who was a sumō wrestler, baseball player and enjoyed raising and fighting roosters. His family generously gifted his keshō-mawashi (sumō apron), which has the family name inscribed on it. The keshō-mawashi is on exhibit at our Center along with photos of Denzaburo.

If you would like to learn more about Denzaburo and the Shigematsu Family, please click here to view a  movie that was made about them a few years ago.

Waipio Valley

Waipiʻo Valley – A Cultural Kīpuka

Honokaʻa town is the gateway to Waipiʻo Valley and the rich agricultural output of the valley has traditionally been and remains a “bread basket” particularly for kalo (taro). The rich agricultural feature allowed for the developement of the valley as a major ruling center for the aliʻi (chiefs). Kalo cultivation, the Peace Corps and modern day concerns about the fragile eco-system are featured.


When Sugar Was King

Much of the multiethnic identity of the people of the Hāmākua Coast is tied to the sugar plantation economy and lifestyle that dominated the area for over one hundred and fifty years. At the peak of Hawaiʻi sugar production in the early 1980s, Hāmākua Sugar Company was the second largest plantation in the state. The evolution of communities along the Hāmākua were typical of plantation towns where companies built housing and laid out much of the infrastructure around mills and agricultural fields.

Filipino Exhibit

The Chinese of Hāmākua

The Taiping Rebellion in China caused great economic turmoil in Southern China, motivating people to leave the country, many immigrating to Hawaiʻi.  They  were the first ethnic group brough to work on the sugar plantations. Chinese immigrants began growing rice in the lower flatlands of Waipiʻo Valley and by the 1880s water buffalo were introduced for use in cultivating rice. 

Filipino Exhibit

Nā Paniolo o Hāmākua

Nā Paniolo o Hāmākua features the rich history of the ranchers who established cattle operations and dairies on the Hāmākua Coast.


Boy's Day

Japanese Immigrants in Hawaiʻi

It is estimated that by 1898 there were 10,500 Japanese contract laborers in Hawaiʻi. By 1924 over 200,000 Japanese laborers had arrived to work on the sugar plantations. Learn about the tragic case of Katsu Goto, who was lynched in Honokaʻa in 1889, the history of the first sanctioned Buddhist temple in Hawaiʻi, and successes of the Japanese paniolo.

Boy's Day

Portuguese Immigrants in Hawaiʻi

By 1889, over 13,000 Portuguese immigrants made their homes in Hawaiʻi. Several area Portuguese families have done a great deal of research on their families and of the trek from Portugal to Hawaiʻi, their work on sugar plantations, and starting small businesses. These family histories illustrate the Portuguese culture and customs such as the Holy Ghost Feast and embroidery from Madeira.

Filipino Exhibit

Puerto Rican Immigrants in Hawaiʻi

Puerto Ricans immigrated to work in Hawaiʻi’s sugar plantations because of two hurricanes in 1899 that caused devasting loss and joblessness. The first group, consisting of fifty-six men, began their journey to Hawaiʻi in late 1900. They were followed by groups that included women and children. There are many accounts of the terrible conditions and the mistreatment during the journey to Hawaiʻi. Over the following two decades close to six thousand arrived to work on the plantation.

Filipino Exhibit

Filipino Immigrants in Hawaiʻi

Filipinos came to Hawaiʻi to work on the sugar plantations between 1906 and 1946. They were the last major ethnic group to be recruited.  Food and cultural traditions brought by the Filipinos have been encorporated into local culture in Hawaiʻi. Read about Filipino immigration experiences and the contributions of the Filipina’s in Hawai’i.

Hamakua USO

North Hawaiʻi During World War

This special exhibit focuses on Camp Tarawa, the Marine Camp in near-by town of Waimea, where training occured during World War II for the war in the Pacific. Honokaʻa Town was a center for R and R for the Marines.

You can also learn more about Camp Tarawa via our Historypin website: Click here

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