Helping the Lāhui Connect with ʻIke


By Kapena Shim

Photo: Kapena Shim
Kapena Shim is the Hawaiʻi specialist librarian at UH Mānoa. – Photo: Courtesy

As the Papakilo Database celebrates its 10-year anniversary, I want to commend the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) on its vision and execution to build a comprehensive database of Hawaiian knowledge sources that continues to increase the quantity of ʻike that the lāhui can engage with – ʻike that is held at so many library and archival repositories both here and abroad.

As a librarian for the Hawaiian Collection at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa working with students, faculty, staff and community researchers, I know that Papakilo is a game-changer in terms of the kinds of resources it has, and how it provides access to these resources. Let me share a few examples.

I often receive inquiries from students and community researchers to find Māhele records pertaining to their family. Papakilo is my go-to source to easily find the images of the original documents via the “Search Māhele Records” function because, unlike the other Māhele-related databases that exist, Papakilo consistently provides access to digitized images of the original Māhele documents: the land commission award, register, testimony, and royal patent. This saves researchers tremendous time and hassle from having to access the records on microfilm or in print at the Hawaiʻi State Archives.

The “Search Newspapers” function is another excellent resource that assists how the lāhui can search and access the vast repository of Hawaiian language newspapers. The advanced search features, such as the title search and filters, makes it really easy to narrow down the number of “hits” to get a more focused set of results. The addition of the corrected OCR (optical character recognition) from the ʻIke Kūʻokoʻa initiative increases the number of relevant hits and allows researchers to find even more content that might otherwise be lost due to poor OCR.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see back issues of OHA’s monthly newspaper, Ka Wai Ola, have been digitized and made available in the newspaper search. This additional content is a great milestone for Papakilo because it is expanding and broadening the newspaper search to go beyond the Hawaiian language newspapers to include the newspapers that speak to the Hawaiian renaissance and sovereignty movements of the late 20th century. This helps the generations of today connect with the not-so-distant voices of the past so we may untangle where we have been, where we are now, and where we need to go.

Looking to the future, I see Papakilo continuing as the main search engine that helps the lāhui connect with ʻike buried in libraries and archives here in Hawaiʻi and around the world.

Much appreciation to OHA for recognizing the value of such a database and funding its development and growth over the last 10 years. The lāhui is hungry for ʻike. With every new resource we gain access to, we become stronger and stronger in our fight for justice and empowerment to improve the lives of the lāhui.

Access to ʻike is one of the keys.

Born in Honolulu and raised in Southern California, Kapena Shim returned to Hawaiʻi to study at UH Mānoa, where he began a journey of connecting with the stories of his ancestors. He has BA degrees in Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian language, and a MS degree in library and information science. Kapena is the Hawaiʻi specialist librarian at UH Mānoa and an archivist for the Hawaiian Legacy Foundation.