The Kauai Museum situated within a structure made of lava rock in the town of Lihue. The museum is home to various remarkable collections of work by artisans from the island Kauai, as well as the island of Niihau, which is a small island to the east that is part of Kauai county. Tourists and locals alike can to the museum and learn more about the different geological formations that make up the islands of Hawaii, how early Native Hawaiians lived, the Hawaiian Monarchy, and the arrival of Captain Cook in Waimea on the shores of Kauai. Visitors can also view different galleries that display the artwork of multi-cultural artists, craftsmen, and sculptors. Guided tours are offered to visitors upon request.
The interesting cultural and geological history of Niihau and Kauai are well represented within the small Kauai Museum, providing plenty for visitors to see despite its smaller size compared to other history museums. The entrance of the compact museum is the Wilcox Building, which was constructed in the year 1924 as the former library for the county. The exterior lava rock features a somewhat out of place Greco-Roman facade.
Inside the Wilcox Building, visitors will find temporary exhibitions, as well as a gift shop that possesses an extensive selection of books. The Heritage Gallery features cases lined with koa that display exquisite shell lei from Niihau, stunningly carved umeke, or wooden bowls, and other interior furnishings that belonged at one time to the royalty of Hawaii. Included in the gallery is a display china from the Iolani Palace, which is believed to be coveted by the curators at the Honolulu site.
Adjacent to the Wilcox Building of the Kauai Museum is the Rice Building. Opened to the public in the year 1960, this two-story structure made of lava rock shares “The Story of Kauai.” The exhibits on the main floor of the building have an emphasis on the volcanic origins of the island of Kauai up to the arrival of voyagers from Polynesia and the start of Western contact, which include missionaries who followed in the wake of Captain Cook and whalers. Among the rare artifacts on display in the Rice Building is a torn piece from a Niihau makaloa mat, which is an art form and highly prized bed covering that was basically abandoned during the late nineteenth century.
On the Rice Building’s second floor, the tale of the history of Kauai shifts over to the days of the plantation era. This was a time when the influx of immigrants fostered the complex concoction known as the “local” cultures. The story of Kauai on this floor extends up through the Second World War. On of the displays highlights the not very well known tale of a Japanese pilot during the Pearl Harbor attack who crashed on the island of Niihau. The pilot took captives, and then was eventually overpowered by many of the native Hawaiian residents after other islanders had rowed to the island of Kauai to notify the authorities.
4428 Rice Street, Lihue, Hawaii, Phone: 808-245-6931