When Reverend Hiram Bingham and the first group of Christian missionaries to Hawaii arrived in the Islands in 1820, few people could predict the impact they would have on the native culture and environment. Lucretia Bingham, the great-great granddaughter of Reverend Bingham, once wrote in ALOHA Magazine: “Rarely has such a small group exerted so much influence over an established culture.”
Many people believe the missionaries made significant contributions to the Islands, while others believe that they caused irreparable harm.
To gain a better understanding of what life was like for these missionaries, visit the Mission Houses Museum in downtown Honolulu. The museum tells the story of cultural change in 19th-century Hawaii and details the daily life and work of the missionaries. On display are original artifacts such as clothing, furnishings, books and other household items belonging to the missionary families.
The structures that make up the museum were built between 1821 and 1841, making them the oldest surviving Western-style buildings in Hawaii. The white Frame House served as the residence of several prominent missionaries. The Chamberlain House was used as a storehouse and separate home. And the Printing Office housed the first printing press in the Pacific. This printing press brought literacy to the Hawaiian kingdom. (Tidbit for trivia buffs: The first printed sheet in Hawaii was produced on January 7, 1922. Oahu Chief Keeaumoku was given the privilege of pulling the lever.)
The museum also boasts an impressive exhibit of Hawaiian quilts. Quilt making in Hawaii evolved from foreign influences on the traditional Hawaiian fiber arts. Today, Hawaiian quilts are prized for their beauty and craftsmanship.
The museum also has a gift shop that carries an extensive selection of Hawaii-related gift items and books.
The Mission Houses Museum is located at 533 South King Street in downtown Honolulu, near Kawaiahao Church, Iolani Palace and the Kamehameha Statue. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. House Tours are held Tuesday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.