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New virtual exhibit celebrates plantation era centennial

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

"Shop" gathering. Jeff Matsumoto Collection, Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center.

September 2022 - On September 30, 2022 Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center (Lānaʻi CHC) launched its first ever virtual  exhibit as part of its centennial celebration that commemorates the plantation life that began when the island was purchased by pineapple pioneer James Dole in 1922. 

The “Beyond the Labor: Plantation Life on Lānaʻi” exhibit can be accessed through the Virtual Exhibits tab or in the link above.“There was so much more to our plantation history than just the work. Lānaʻi’s plantation people created the foundation of our community today and had a shared sense of responsibility for each other and to this place,”  says Lānaʻi CHC Executive Director Shelly Preza, whose lineage on the island can be traced for centuries.  After completing her education at Kamehameha Schools on Oahu and Harvard University, she returned to Lānaʻi to give back to the community that raised her. “This exhibit is a way to highlight their vibrant lives and to honor their important legacy.”

The web exhibit shares photographs and audio of first-hand accounts that have never been shared before of what became the world’s largest pineapple plantation.  The exhibit is composed of photographs from Lānaʻi family collections of community members who are generationally tied to the plantation era.

When James Dole purchased Lānaʻi in 1922 for $1.1 million, a new economic industry driven by pineapple began and would encompass 70 years in which the island became one of the world’s leading centers for production. It led to an influx of immigrant families with the first being those from Japan and more arrivals from Philippines, Korea, China, Puerto Rico and many other cultures that shaped Lānaʻi into the community it is today.    

The culture and heritage center offers a view of plantation life that transcends the division between economic interests and labor. It presents a historic accounting of daily life that was civic-focused, culturally inclusive, and joyful. It celebrates the promise of a new life that many immigrants sought and found on the island during those decades.  Clubs provided a sense of belonging and were popular such as the Scouts that included Sea Scouts in addition to Boys and Girls Scouts. Tennis tournaments, little league, archery and bowling were popular sports that brought the community together along with bon dances and hula performances. A lifestyle of fishing, diving, and hunting were ingrained into the identity of islanders. This exhibit offers a broad showcase of island life and poignant insights into the cultural identity of a community that was shaped by a 70-year era. The online exhibit is accessible to the many thousands of residents who no longer live on the island of just 3,000 residents.  

Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center aims to expand its archive and welcomes historic or family photographs. This exhibit is part of the center’s archival program and ongoing digitization efforts to preserve and protect its history.

Support for this exhibit is provided by Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority through the Community Enrichment program.

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