"Rediscovering Emma" Display @ the Hawaii State Library

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By Paul H. Mark Holo I Mua, May 2008

An exhibit entitled Rediscovering Emma, which presents the life and work of Emma K. Metcalf Beckley Nakuina, a Hawaiian intellectual of the last century, is currently on display through June 2008 at the Hawaii State Library. Funded by the Friends of the Library of Hawaii, this exhibit may be viewed in the First Floor Reading Room during normal library hours.

Who was Emma? Emma was an alii [the hereditary chiefly or noble rank (class, caste) in traditional Hawaiian society] and Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Kapiolani. In addition, Emma was in charge of the Hawaiian Government Library, the Hawaiian Government Museum, served as a Commissioner of Water Rights, recorded Hawaiian legends and wrote about Hawaiian history and culture. Well-known in her own time, Emma nearly dropped from sight for more than 50 years.

In a special program to unveil this exhibit on May 1, four contemporary scholars and writers who had rediscovered Emma Kailikapuolono Metcalf Beckley Nakuina shared their discoveries about this incredible woman: Cristina Bacchilega, Professor of English, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Lynn A. Davis, Head, Library Preservation Department, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Carol MacLennan, Professor of Anthropology, Michigan Technological University; and Dennis Kawaharada, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Kapiolani Community College, and Publisher, Kalamaku Press. The program was co-sponsored by the Association of Hawaii Archivists.

The Hawaii State Library is located at 478 South King Street. For more information about the “Rediscovering Emma” exhibit, call the library’s Hawaii Documents Section at 808-586-3543.