Papakilo Database: OHA’s Repository of ʻIke Celebrates its 10th Anniversary

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By Kale Hannahs, OHA Archival Information Specialist

On April 4, 2011, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) launched a unique and revolutionary online resource: the Papakilo Database.

From its humble beginnings, hosting just 13 collections with approximately 500,000 records, the Papakilo Database has grown into a robust repository of Hawaiian ʻike, featuring 65 unique collections and over 1 million records.

To commemorate Papakilo’s 10th anniversary, in April 2021, Ka Wai Ola will feature stories about Papakilo’s various community partners and identify the benefits that their collections have provided the community. This is the first installment of a 12-month series that celebrates Hawaiian ʻike and demonstrates the value of not only preserving our historic documents, but making them accessible to all.

The name Papakilo was given to OHA by Dr. Puakea Nogelemeier and Kauʻi Sai Dudoit of Awaiaulu, LLC. “Papa” translates as the foundation and “kilo” means to seek or search. A foundation for seeking, searching and observing not only describes the functional use of the database, but as OHA’s former CEO, Dr. Kamanaʻopono Crabbe explained, it is also the “continual exploration of infinite spaces and levels of knowledge as a perpetual cycle for the next generations to come.”

The vision of the Papakilo Database was inspired by the Native Rights, Land and Culture Division’s goal of creating a showcase of Hawaiian ʻike, as well as the Compliance Division’s plan to improve their efficiency and effectiveness by providing a one-stop-shop of resources to inform OHA’s response to environmental assessments and impact statements, Section 106 reports, Burial Council requests, and other reports.

Previously, these inquiries required staff to conduct time-consuming research at the Bishop Museum, State Archives, Bureau of Conveyance, libraries and other repositories.

To bring the digital dream to life, OHA staff engaged in various internal and community strategic planning meetings. The consensus was that the priority should be to focus, initially, on improving access to selected high demand/high importance records.

These collections would serve as cornerstones for Papakilo’s foundation and address the primary research needs of the community – genealogy, land title, and kūpuna ʻike. The Māhele Record Collection, Bishop Museum’s Hawaiian Language Newspaper Collection, and Ulukau’s Genealogy and Place Name Collections were identified as high-value resources whose increased accessibility would benefit both constituents and OHA staff.

To this day, the Māhele records and newspapers are the most accessed collections within Papakilo.

Papakilo’s success and content relies on the partnerships and trust it has cultivated within Hawaiʻi’s archive community. OHA’s dream of a “one-stop-shop” that provides searchable records and collections from various archives, libraries, and museums had to be equally beneficial for these partners.

Consequently, the database is more than the sum of transactions that accumulate an ever-growing collection, it represents the abundant harvest of symbiotic relationships between OHA and respected partnering organizations who are providing services that meet the needs of our beneficiaries.

The Papakilo Database is truly a unique and valuable repository that represents OHA’s investment in the education and preservation of ʻike, and the future of the lāhui. Visit www.papakilodatabase.com to start your research experience.