Thursday | May 05, 2016
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Hilo residents will lead Hawaii Historical Society

For the first time in its 121-year history, two Hilo residents will lead the board of the Hawaiian Historical Society. Helen Wong Smith was elected HHS president on May 9 in Honolulu, and Ian Birnie resumes his position as vice president after a year-long hiatus.

The society, organized in January 1892 by a group of prominent Honolulu citizens, was dedicated to preserving historical materials relating to Hawaii and publishing scholarly research on Hawaiian history. In subsequent years the society’s interests broadened to include the Pacific region and Hawaii’s role within it.

Generous donations from families of the founders, including books, pamphlets, newspapers and documents, formed the base of the library collection. From 1892 to 1912, the library was housed by cooperative agreement with the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association. When the latter organization was superseded by the Carnegie-endowed Library of Hawaii, the Historical Society’s collection was moved to the new library building.

Today the library is in a building completed in 1950 to house the collections of the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society, the Hawaiian Historical Society and the Hawaiian Evangelical Association Archives. It is located on the grounds of the Mission Houses Museum, close to historic Kawaiaha‘o Church and Honolulu’s Civic Center.

Over the years, the society has cooperated with the Bishop Museum, Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu Academy of Arts, University of Hawaii and the Library of Hawaii (now the Hawaii State Library) in collecting and preserving historical materials and in making them available to students and the general public. Visit


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