UH Hilo anthropology class creates museum quality exhibit at Mookini Library, on view through June 8
The exhibit is a way to connect the UH Hilo community to the Department of Anthropology collections, which consist of archaeological, anthropological, and historical materials that were excavated and collected since the 1950s.
By Susan Enright.
At the end of this spring semester, anthropology students in a museology course—the study of museums—at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo created a museum quality exhibit at Mookini Library during finals week.
The museology course (ANTH 470) is writing intensive, meaning the students were required to do a substantial amount of writing and drafting. They received museum training with instruction in storing artifacts, creating exhibits, managing administrative duties, solving custodial problems, and conducting interpretations. They also learned about developing public programs, specifically about engaging with local communities to promote museum visits for the public to learn about history and objects such as cultural artifacts.
The students set up an exhibit in Mookini Library during finals week using artifacts and other objects from UH Hilo Department of Anthropology’s collections. The students’ exhibit is entitled, “Treasures from the Anthropology Collection: Stories from the Past.”
“The exhibition becomes the bridge to connect the museum and the community,” says Tarisi Vunidilo, assistant professor of anthropology who taught the class. “This exhibition is a way to connect the staff and students of UH Hilo to the Department of Anthropology collection, which consists of archaeological, anthropological, and historical materials almost entirely from Professor William Bonk, who taught at UH Hilo from the 1950s to the 1990s.”
- Learn more about Tarisi Vunidilo and the anthropology department’s collection: Indigenous archaeologist returns to UH Hilo to inspire students to study Pacific artifacts (UH Hilo Stories, Nov. 1, 2019)
Assistant Professor Vunidilo, an alumna of the UH Hilo anthropology program, says her students felt privileged to study the collection. Each student chose a “treasure” to feature in the exhibit.
After choosing their object, each student then researched it, wrote up the label, and prepared it for the exhibition. The class decided to translate the labels into ‘ōlelo Hawaii (Hawaiian language); one of the students, Torri Law, assisted with the translations.
“It was a fun project that all students participated in,” says Vunidilo. “Hands-on learning is the best method of learning for students, more so in museology. We get to work with our collections in the department and students have fun putting life on these objects. Seeing students putting a voice on their chosen object made this exhibition project fun, interesting, and engaging.”
During the class, the students shared with each other the reasons for their choice of objects, and in turn, used their critical thinking skills to learn about the perspectives of their classmates.
“It was beautiful to hear students share what they have found for each object they chose,” says Vunidilo. “And the whole class was able to get a glimpse of what the Department of Anthropology collection really entails. It was a group effort and a job well done.”
The exhibit, “Treasures from the Anthropology Collection: Stories from the Past,” will be on display at Mookini Library through the first week of June. Hours are May 15-19, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and starting May 22, Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The library is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
The following is a brief summary of each student’s project.
Victorina Andrade, “Ki‘i pōhaku—Petroglyph photos from 1964.” Petroglyphs are found across the Hawaiian islands, but the most are located on Hawai‘i Island totaling 70 sites.
Jacqueline Armijo, “Traditional Chinese Steelyard Balance Scale (Chinese gănchèng 杆秤).” A handheld scale for weighing small and relatively light objects such as tea, tobacco, and spices.
Leah Evensen, “Interview Papers.” Surveys conducted following the January 1960 eruption of Kīlauea.
Torri Law, “Octopus Lure.” Not just any stone could be used in a lure. A special type of stone called “gabbro” was favored, but is difficult to find in Hawai‘i.
Jolene Nakamoto, “Ink Bottle.” Carter’s Ink, a company established in 1858, provided a variety of supplies to the military during World War I. (1914-1918).
Shanon Purdy, “Kōnane Stones.” Kōnane is a skill-based board game played during the peaceful season of makahiki to help warriors practice strategizing.
Mia Rose, “Bread Wrapping Paper.” Over 100 years old, the wrapper features the original red and green pattern seen on kilts worn by men in Scotland.
Ava Rossi, “Stone Adze.” The stone adze comes from the Maunakea adze quarry, the largest rock quarry in the world.
Jowan Sillil, “Abacus.” The abacus was an ancient tool used to make calculations and to count as well as doing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using simple beads.
Cathleen Weathermon, “Leho He‘e/Lūhe‘e.” Different types of cowry shells were used to make a leho he‘e (octopus lure).
Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.