Hawaiian Mission Houses’ Strategic Plan themes note that the collaboration between Native Hawaiians and American Protestant missionaries resulted in the
- introduction of Christianity
- development of a written Hawaiian language and establishment of schools that resulted in widespread literacy
- promulgation of the concept of constitutional government
- combination of Hawaiian with Western medicine
- evolution of a new and distinctive musical tradition with harmony and choral singing
Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives is on an acre of land in the middle of downtown Honolulu. It includes Hawai‘i’s two oldest houses, the 1821 Mission House (wood frame) and the 1831 Chamberlain House (coral block,) a 1841 bedroom annex interpreted as the Print Shop.
In addition, the site has the Mission Memorial Cemetery, and a building which houses collections and archives, a reading room, a visitors’ store, and staff offices.
A coral and grass stage, Kahua Ho‘okipa, was added in 2011; addition of a reconstructed grass dwelling is in permitting process. This was the headquarters for the American protestant Sandwich Island Mission. Across King Street is the red brick Mission Memorial Building 1915.
While now not part of the Mission Houses, the Memorial building was built by the Hawaiian Evangelical Association as a museum and archive to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Protestant Missionaries in Hawaii. The city took over the building during the 1940s and it has since been converted to the City Hall Annex.
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US, led by Hiram Bingham, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.)
Over the course of a little over 40-years (1820-1863 – the “Missionary Period”,) about 180-men and women in twelve Companies served in Hawaiʻi to carry out the mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in the Hawaiian Islands.
In addition to the buildings which are part of the collection, the Mission Houses object collection contains over 7,500 artifacts, including furniture, quilts, bark cloth, paintings, ceramics, clothing, and jewelry.
The archival collections include more than 12,000 books, manuscripts, original letters, diaries, journals, illustrations, and Hawaiian church records. Mission Houses owns the largest collection of Hawaiian language books in the world, and the second largest collection of letters written by the ali‘i.
The size and scope of these collections make Hawaiian Mission Houses one of the foremost repositories for nineteenth century Hawaiian history.
Included in the archives are some of the original WO Smith Papers associated with the Provisional Government, including the original signed protest from Queen Lili‘uokalani, dated January 17, 1893.
Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society, a 501(c)3 non-profit educational institution, founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1907, acquired the 1821 Mission House in 1906, restored and opened it in 1908.
The organization developed a professional staff in 1970 and named the public program component Mission Houses Museum. In early 2012 they established a new name, Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives.
A National Historic Landmark, Mission Houses preserves and interprets the two oldest houses in Hawaiʻi through school programs, historic house tours, and special events.
The archives, English and Hawaiian, are available on site and online. Together, these activities enrich our community “by fostering thoughtful dialogue and greater understanding of the missionary role in the history of Hawaiʻi.” (Mission Houses’ Vision Statement)
The Mission Houses collections are critical to understanding the dramatic changes in the 19th-century Kingdom of Hawaiʻi that helped shape contemporary Hawaiʻi.
With one of the most significant collections of manuscripts and photos of 19th-century Hawaiʻi, and perhaps surprisingly, the largest collection of Hawaiian language books in the world, the collection includes results of the recent Letters from the Aliʻi translation project.
The site and its collection is a community resource that help us all understand who we are, where we came from, and how this place, this Hawaiʻi we know today came to be.
One cannot understand modern Hawaii without understanding the 19th century changes that occurred through the unlikely collaborative partnership between Native Hawaiians, their ali‘i, and the American Protestant missionaries.
Today, is the annual meeting of the Hawaiian Mission Houses, reminiscent of the annual General Meetings of the early missionaries.
We are preparing for the bicentennial of the arrival of the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries, including my great-great-great grandparents, Hiram and Sybil Bingham.
As critical dates approach, I’ll be providing more on the bicentennial’s series of publication, programs and events, focusing on Reflection and Rejuvenation. (Most of the information here is from Mission Houses.)