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Ambitious Digitization Project at Kawaiahao Church Seeks to Preserve Hawaiian History

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – In 1820, Kawaiahao Church was established as Oahu’s first Christian church. She is known as the “Mother Church” of Hawaii.

Kahu Kenneth Makuakane leads an effort to preserve his past.

“I had the opportunity to become the head of this church so I saw the breadth and scope of 200 years of history,” he said.

Kawaiahao has amassed a huge library of historical documents that document his membership in Hawaiian royalty and other notables who attended church.

“Liliuokalani has become our organist and our choir director. Princess Pauahi Bishop, who established the Kamehameha schools, was a member of the choir here, ”Makuakane said.

US Representative Ed Case and the Hawaiian Congressional delegation helped the church secure a $ 98,000 prize from the Native American / Native Hawaiian Museum Services program to digitize its massive archives.

Makuakane said the preservation project is very important.

“The most important thing is to digitize these things before these physical documents start to deteriorate to the point that they are not saved for our future generations. For me, this is the most important, ”he said.

The church stores thousands of pages of handwritten records of baptisms, marriages, and funerals dating back to the 1800s. One page of a register shows the church membership of Queen Kaahumanu.

And it’s not just royalty. Tens of thousands of people called the church home.

“We have a ton of material written in the old style of writing,” Makuakane said.

Old photographs, records, plans, maps and audio recordings will also be converted to digital format. Finally, an archival system will allow anyone to easily access the enormous collection.

“It’s for our people. And when I say our people, I mean the people who live here in our beautiful islands, so they know who their ancestors are. They could research their genealogy. They could look for historical data, ”Makuakane said.

The archive project is carried out in phases. The Kawaiahao church hopes to have it completed in two or three years.

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