story by Maja Clark
In sun-scorched Nanakuli on Oahu’s leeward coast sits one of the few elementary schools in the world that has its very own museum. Any student on the Nanaikapono campus will proudly show you the way.
photos by Monte Costa
"We serve schools, students, teachers, community residents and the general public," says Virginia Kapaku, curator of the Nanaikapono Community School Museum, which opened in 1972. "A group of people had a deep concern for Hawaiian identity and culture and created the museum." The coastal desert area of Nanakuli was repopulated in 1926 under the Hawaiian Homes Act, and the school opened its doors to the settlers’ children over seventy years ago.
Today the school’s museum is visited by 1,000 students a week from schools around Oahu. Its current exhibit is arranged by topic, from sports to music. Ancient and contemporary materials link the past and present. A shaped koa plank is displayed near photographs of modern-day surfers. Antique poi pounders and ipu displayed behind glass are replicated so visitors can touch them. Recent archaeological surveys of Nanakuli have found evidence of settlement from A.D. 1200 to 1400; artifacts in the museum’s collection discovered in Nanakuli include a centuries-old kapa beater. In addition to exhibits, there are hands-on projects such as weaving lauhala and pounding kapa.
"The children know exactly what goes on in the museum," says Aunty Lehua, describing a typical open house where parents are guided through the exhibits by enthusiastic students. "My love for this little building is not only for this building, but for what’s occurred here." Visitors are welcome by appointment.
Nanaikapono Community School Museum