Moʻokūʻauhau (Genealogies) of Care: Curating Aliʻi Collections at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

  • Halena Kapuni-Reynolds (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa)


This paper explores the practice of moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy) in the care of Aliʻi (chiefly) museum collections at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum (Honolulu, HI). Caring for aliʻi objects is a cultural imperative, rooted in a moʻokūʻauhau of curating aliʻi possessions that were and continue to be regarded as vessels of aliʻi mana (spiritual energy). Moʻokūʻauhau, as a relational practice of tracing one’s familial, academic, and practice-based ancestries, is central to Indigenous curation at the Bishop Museum, for it allows staff members who care for the Ethnology Collection to reveal moʻolelo (stories) of how they draw from their familial traditions and the teachings of their mentors within and outside of the museum in order to cultivate an environment where culturally-appropriate methods of care can be utilized. The moʻokūʻauhau of care that are revealed through these moʻolelo are crucial, for they reveal the importance of cultural training and mentorship as a core element of Indigenous curatorial practice. Acknowledging these experiences as a form of professional experience is exigent for supporting Kanaka ʻŌiwi and other Indigenous museum professionals who bridge institutional practice with Indigenous sensibilities.


This research was supported in part by a research grant provided by the University of Denver's School of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences. I would like to thank Karen Kosasa and Noelle Kahanu for our many discussions that have shaped this manuscript. I would also like to extend special thanks to the Cultural Collections staff members at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum for their support and their willingness to share their stories with me. This publication would not have been possible without their insights and encouragement. One anonymous reviewer through the Studies in Arts and Humanities editorial team helped to clarify and strengthen this manuscript. All errors are my own.

Keywords: Indigenous people, Genealogy, Hawaii, Aliʻi, Museum exhibits, Bishop Museum

How to Cite:

Kapuni-Reynolds, H., (2017) “Moʻokūʻauhau (Genealogies) of Care: Curating Aliʻi Collections at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum”, Studies in Arts and Humanities 3(2), 84-108. doi:

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Published on
07 Dec 2017
Peer Reviewed