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Mokupapapa: Discovery Center Opens
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Mokupapapa: Discovery Center Opens
  The Big Island Travel News ( Press Release )

Hilo Boasts Three Museums With Opening Of Mokupapapa: Discovery Center For Hawaii's Remote coral Reefs Hilo, Hawaii's Big Island
Befitting royal treasure, Hawaii's precious ocean habitats and ecosystems have been given a special place of honor with the opening of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Mokupapapa: Discovery Center for Hawaii's Remote Coral Reefs located in historic downtown Hilo in the S. Hata building. This addition brings the number of cultural and natural history museums in downtown Hilo to three!
The 4,000 square foot museum combines interactive exhibits and video vignettes with colorful interpretive panels, and features a 2,500-gallon salt-water aquarium, containing colorful tropical fish swimming among amazing architectures of colorful coral found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). This educational facility provides interpretation of the natural, cultural and historic resources of the remote islands, gleaning appreciation for all Hawaii's underwater world.
Since December 4, 2000, the NWHI have been protected by Executive Order as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, becoming the largest conservation project under the United States at 99,500 square miles. The Discovery Center is one of the only ways visitors can appreciate the beauty and fragility of NWHI's habitats.
Visitors are immersed into a sea of blue color surrounded by life-like artwork and interpretive panels. A wall-sized interactive display immediately catches the eye as it reveals the numerous National Marine Sanctuaries, National Parks, and National Wildlife Refuges spread across the Pacific Ocean. Even more amazing is the aerial view of the State of Hawaii protected areas, international reserves and the vast area of the NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve.
Veer towards the center of the room where an interactive computer kiosk details the formation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands from volcanoes to its current formation of coral reef rings and small low islands surrounding a central lagoon. In fact, the name of the Discovery Center, Mokupapapa, is derived from the Hawaiian term for "remote, low-lying islets and reefs." Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. with atolls.
These atolls have become host to more than 7000 species of marine life, many of which are endemic and can only be found in the waters surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including several federally protected species like the endangered monk seal and threatened green sea turtle.
Actual footage of the ocean waters and of the protected lagoon waters can also be viewed as part of a wall-sized mural of a coral reef ecosystem found in NWHI created by local artist Layne Luna. Fiberglass renditions of Hawaii's fish species that decorate the walls are further examples of Luna's artistry. Visitors may even access weather forecasts, surf reports and information about the NWHI and NOAA's other marine sanctuaries through a Touch Screen Interactive Kiosk that uses a high-speed internet connection.
The entire length of a third wall holds colorful interpretive text panels written in English and Hawaiian that share the development and cultural heritage of each of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
A separate, free-standing interactive display shares video footage of Pearl and Hermes Atoll. With a push of a button, visitors can experience several "virtual dives" and explore the various habitats that make up a typical atoll.
The museum extends into a separate program room that serves as a theater for classes or a venue for guest speakers and special programs. Inside this auditorium visitors are treated to a 10-minute video that artfully shares the beauty and fragility of these Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and its fish, mammal and bird residents. The auditorium also features interpretive panels that tell the history of man's contact with the various islands and atolls. Cultural artifacts found on the islands are also displayed, linking ancient Hawaiians with these islands.
After watching the video and exploring the interpretive panels, gaze at the salt-water tank and find all the marine life that make Hawaii its home before rushing to explore the mock-up of the Pisces Research Submersible cockpit. Youth will especially enjoy the interactive model complete with movable arms controlled by buttons and levers.
Mokupapapa: Discovery Center for Hawaii's Remote Coral Reefs is free to the public and opens from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday through Saturday. For more information visit the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve web site at www.hawaiireef.noaa.gov/welcome.html.
To experience a sampling of Hawaii's precious ocean treasure found along the Northwestern Hawaiian Chain visit the island's only underwater state park and marine sanctuary at Kealakekua Bay.
While in historic Hilo, why not visit its two other museums? Just down the street enter the Pacific Tsunami Museum for an appreciation of nature's raw power. Scientific information and personal testimonies combine to reveal the natural and historical impact tsunamis or tidal waves have had on Hawaii. The Pacific Tsunami Museum is open from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. every Monday through Saturday. Rates are $7 for adults, $2 for children 6 - 17 years and free for children 5 years and younger. For more information visit the web site at www.tsunami.org.
Just around the block on Haili Street find the Lyman Museum & Mission House. At the fully restored Mission House of New England missionaries, gaze into life as it was in Hawaii 150 years ago. Next door at the museum, enjoy the new and permanent exhibits of Hawaii's natural and cultural history, including a collection of seashells and minerals from around the world. The Lyman Museum & Mission House opens every Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Rates are $10 for adults $8 for seniors and $3 for children 6 - 17 years of age. For more information visit the web site at www.lymanmuseum.org.

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