Since 2007, the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center has been a place for residents and visitors to discover Lanai on a deeper level. With native artifacts dating back almost 1,000 years, as well as historic memorabilia, walking through the center provides glimpses into the island’s storied past.
“It’s a way we can give respect to our kupuna and have the legacy of Lanai live on so our future generations can learn about the history,” said Pam Alconcel, a founding member of the LCHC board, who currently serves as board treasurer. “There are so many diverse ethnic groups that lived on Lanai and we wanted to be able to capture and tell their stories through the center.”
After obtaining her degree in Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Alconcel spent some time on the mainland before moving back home to Lanai in 2001. She got involved with the Lanai Archaeological Committee, and from there, she worked with fellow board member Martha Evans to turn the original museum into a center that encompassed the history and culture of the island.
A timeline now runs along the center’s wall highlighting notable events and people from Lanai’s history. It starts with the islands rising above sea level, goes through the times of human settlement, to the days of Keomoku, through the era of the paniolo, and up to the time of pineapple plantations. A plantation heritage room also displays photographs and other items that tells stories and pays homage to Lanai’s pineapple era, which spans 70 years.
A place for all
LCHC helps residents from neighbor islands and visitors from around the world better understand Lanai. It also serves as a learning center for locals, especially keiki.
The center takes youth education a step further, beyond the walls and into the community for a place-based summer cultural literacy program, E Ike Hou Ia Lanai. Through this program, a large group of students and volunteers participate in various projects of land stewardship each year. Alconcel says programs like this are part of the center’s goal to grow the hands-on activities and space for students and visitors. “Our long-term vision is to expand,” said Alconcel. “We don’t always have the space to highlight more collections and we would like to make it more like a living-classroom.”
Powered by volunteers
When the center first opened, it received an overwhelming amount of community support. “Tons of volunteers came out to help with the exhibits, but we ended up spending much of the day reminiscing,” remembers Alconcel.
LCHC achieved 501(c)(3) status and a group of dedicated volunteers and nine-member board help keep the center running. Most of the volunteers are from Lanai and enjoy sharing the history of their home. From landscaping to archival work to greeting visitors, there are a variety of roles that volunteers of all ages can fill.
If you are interested in taking a trip down memory lane, learning more about the history and culture of Lanai, or supporting and volunteering as part of the programs, visit lanaichc.org or call 565-7177. Residents and visitors are also invited to check out the center at 730 Lanai Ave., Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.