Welo Hou, New Exhibit at Bishop Museum

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Hoku o Hawaii published on December 6, 1923. 

Aloha Nūhou Monday! 

Dear Reader, there is a new exhibit in the Picture Gallery at Bishop Museum. It features the Helen Roberts Collection of mele which were collected across the archipelago in the early 1920s from people who still retained them. In the exhibit, you will find objects related to the collection, from a copy of a field notebook used by Helen Roberts, to copies of mele with notes and translations in the hand of Mary Kawena Pukui, to actual audio of the mele performed by some of those who Roberts recorded on her “phonograph” almost a hundred years ago! 

Here is an article printed in Ka Hoku o Hawaii informing their readership of this tremendous project and encouraging those with knowledge to share their mele for the sake of the generations to come: 

Image: “He Hana Maikai e Kokua ia” Ka Hoku o Hawaii, December 6, 1923, p. 2.

An Endeavor That is a Fine Thing to Assist 

In the past session of the Legislature, $5000.00 was set aside for costs in the preparation of a book of “Old Mele Olioli of Hawaiʻi.” This task has been given to Kamehameha School, and they are carrying out this endeavor to care for the “old mele olioli” of Hawaiʻi nei. Miss Helen H. Roberts has been sent by the Trustees of Kamehameha School to go among the Hawaiian people and search out these old mele of Hawaiʻi nei. 

She has with her a Phonograph and wants people to chant old mele into that phonograph, so that those voices can be recorded and preserved for the upcoming generations. Not only are mele olioli sought after, but so are Hawaiian mele hoʻāeae for hula. A great many years will go by and those who know these old mele will pass on, but these mele olioli and mele hoʻāeae will become things by which to remember the history of the Hawaiian Lāhui. 

This endeavor is also looking for where the Hawaiian Lāhui came from, whereas mele of other Polynesian Lāhui are being sought after as well to perhaps compare these old mele with Hawaiʻi’s old mele. 

This endeavor is very worthy of assistance by those old people who know the old mele hoʻāeae of Hawaiʻi nei. 

This work is not intended to make money, but it is meant to search for the old things of the beloved Kūpuna of this Lāhui, and every Hawaiian who has pride in the fame of their Lāhui should not hold back these things of the Kūpuna and go to their graves without leaving these benefits for those who come after. We ask Rev. William Mahana Kalaiwaa and Rev. William Kamau of the Kohala districts to support this fine endeavor for the fame of the Hawaiian Lāhui. We [Steven Langhern Desha Sr., editor and president of the newspaper] are giving our help as well from what little we have for the great success of this fine work henceforth, for this is something that will perpetuate the celebrated History of the Hawaiian Lāhui. 

(Ka Hoku o Hawaii, December 6, 1923, p. 2) 

Image: Rev. William M. Kalaiwaa; Kamuela, Hawaiʻi. Photo by Louis R. Sullivan, 1920–1921. Bishop Museum Archives. SP 4889.

Image sharing on social media is welcome, however out of respect for those pictured and their living descendants we do ask that you share not only their images but their names and stories as well. For all other uses please contact Archives@BishopMuseum.org

Image: Rev. William Kamau from “Aloha Pumehana,” Ka Hoku o Hawaii, June 19, 1940, p. 1.

For more information on the Roberts Collection, click here for the Welo Hou blog.

— Post by Bishop Museum Library & Archives Staff

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