Bishop Museum: Culture, Science, and Spirit

Posted by on October 3, 2010 in Featured Posts, TechMuse Blog, The Museum Learning Experience, World Connections | 5 comments

Enjoyed the ASTC reception last night at the Bishop Museum — and how could I not? A Hawaiian luau, with  food (including the mysterious poi, top notch live music both traditional and contemporary, and a few strong mai tais). But what struck me from a museum perspective is how well the institution as a whole integrates the disparate domains of culture, science, and spirit.

The historic building houses the more cultural exhibits (including Hawaiian Hall), and the new Science Adventure Center is a separate building focusing on the natural wonders of Hawaii.  But themes mingle between the two buildings.

I was struck by the Hawaiian Origins Tunnel in the Science Adventure Center. Visitors walk through a dark tunnel with brightly lit images that are key to traditional understandings of Hawaii's origins. It struck me that it would be very hard to do this in the continental U.S., where issues of science, culture, and spirit are much more polarized.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the natural wonders of Hawaii are so abundant, and provide a base of understanding that speaks beyond ideologies. (Note the quote from the scientist and cultural advisor, if you can read it in my blurry photo).

Hawaiian origins text 



  1. Thanks for writing about the Museum. Its great to see it through your eyes! Hope you are enjoying the conference.

  2. Hi Justine —
    Oh, just realized you all at Gyroscope led the design of the Science Adventure Center. I really enjoyed it — loved the big picture metaphor, walking through the volcano, as well as the science and cultural integration throughout the center…So glad to have seen it…

  3. Brad, Loved this post. Reconciling traditional, spiritual, indigenous perspectives on the origins of our world with recent scientific evidence and theories is one of the crucial challenges of our age. Examples of effective ways of doing it, with respect for both sides, are few and far between. It’s wonderful to see that somewhere at least the two can peacefully co-exist!

    • Hey, good to hear from you Shelley! Yeah, this really struck me — I wish I had more (and less blurry) photos. FYI, when I squint, here’s the blurry quote in the text panel from their science advisor:
      “In chanting the Kumulipo (?), I am returned to the source of our beginnings as Hawaiians, of our ancestral understanding of the universe in all its cosmic grandeur. It is both illuminating and inspirational that Hawaiians understand all life forms are genealogically connected. But the chant also reflects Western ideas about evolution. As a Hawaiian scientist who dwells in both worlds — that of Hawaiian culture and the scientific — I see no disparity, or difference, but commonality and shared understanding.”


      • Excellent. Thanks for posting the quote from the science advisor. I managed to get the gist from the blurry photo, but it’s inspiring to see his entire statement. So many modern people are caught in this (potential) dilemma between culture/religion and science. As you point out, the debate can become incredibly polarized. It is refreshing that this Hawaiian scientist can see parallels that allow him or her to appreciate the contribution and sense of both.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!