HONOLULU (KHON2) — There is a saying, “To know your history is to know your future.”

The Bishop Museum has partnered with the non-profit Awaiaulu to launch the project “He Aupuni Palapala” in an effort to preserve and digitize Hawaiian language newspapers.  

An effort was taken in 2002 to digitize Hawaiian newspapers from microfilm images captured nearly 40 years ago. They are accessible online but only about 30% are clearly visible.  

A new effort is now being taken to improve the quality and quantity of those collections.

“So if there are 125,000 pages of newspapers and only 56,000 or 60,000 are available online, this would expand that reach,” says Kau’i Sai-Dudoit, program manager of He Aupuni Palapala

“So, it would be more complete, but the imaging itself would be really clean and clear because you are shooting them straight from the originals,” Sai-Dudoit said.

The first newspaper in Hawai’i was printed in 1834 on Maui and written in the Hawaiian language.

It sparked a wave of learning that led Hawai’i to a 90% literacy rate by the middle of the century. 

“Its 114 years of discussion, of change, of transition, that is not included in the current dialogue,” says Sai-Dudoit. “The current history books about Hawai’i have been written without the Hawaiian voice. So not only is it inaccurate, it’s kind of incomplete.”

The goal of He Aupuni Palapala is to bridge Hawaiian knowledge from the past to the present and beyond.

“The value and the impact of us completing this project will provide Hawaiian knowledge to the next generations for generations to come,” says Sai-Dudoit. “The whole point to this is for free access. Enough time has gone by where Hawaiian knowledge is not accessible to Hawai’i and to Hawaiians.”

This multi-year project would not have had a chance if it was not for the support from the Hawai’i Tourism Authority and contributions from the Kamehameha Schools.  

To access the digital collections thus far, click here