A Perfect Storm of Opportunities


Pandemic Opened the Door to a Collaboration Between LRF and OHA

By Kimberly Flook, LRF Deputy Executive Director

As Lahaina Restoration Foundation (LRF) celebrates its 60th anniversary, no one in 1962 could have imagined where the organization, and the world, would be in 2022.

Over six decades, LRF has worked to fulfill its vision that Lahaina’s prominent place in Hawaiʻi’s history and rich cultural traditions are celebrated, and, through authentic preservation of significant sites, buildings and artifacts, its story is shared. Much of this work has been focused on restoring and preserving more than a dozen landmarks and historic structures in Lahaina, as well as acting as stewards of Lahaina’s two historic districts and its green spaces.

LRF also maintains several collections of artifacts, photographs, letters, maps, ships’ logs, and other materials representative of Lahaina’s colorful history. In the past, due to staff, time, and space limitations, many of these collections were only available to the public and researchers via requests for in-person appointments.

Over the last two years, however, a convergence of events has opened the door for LRF to share its stories much more effectively.

COVID-19 resulted in a short-term pivot for staff members – which meant that time and manpower were finally available to accomplish a full accounting of our collections. We discovered treasures long forgotten – or never realized – as our staff gained new skills in collection care and processing. For the first time, we had a full understanding of the scope of our materials.

Concurrently, the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority and Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau launched Mālama Hawaiʻi, a “voluntourism” initiative. LRF was thrilled to join the effort with a collections care program, Hands-on History, which was born out of the COVID-19 crisis and our newly created collections care department. Visitors and locals alike can join together to process the riches of Lahaina’s history.

The final piece of the puzzle that will allow us to better share our collections and tell Lahaina’s story arrived in the form of a new partnership.

Moving forward, over 1,500 documents will be available to the public, researchers and history lovers alike, via the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Papakilo Database. Before this opportunity arose, having the collections fully searchable and viewable online was only a dream in our long-term plan.

We are excited to be able to share approximately 350 historic photos of Lahaina town, including images of key areas, events and residents dating from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s; 70 images and 180 letters relating to four generations of the extended Baldwin family (a missionary and sugar era family); and over 900 Pioneer Mill Company records from the early to mid-20th century, including property maps, floor plans, construction materials, and occupancy information of its plantation camps.

At no other point in Lahaina Restoration Foundation’s history have we been better positioned to fulfill our mission, and it is all thanks to a perfect storm of opportunities coming together.

Lahaina Restoration Foundation is a 501(c)3 Hawaiʻi nonprofit organization chartered in 1962. Its purpose is to restore, preserve and protect the physical, historical and cultural legacies of Lahaina, and honor the era of the Hawaiian Monarchy.