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
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
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
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
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
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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