Legal History and Archives Update: Fostering Partnerships

By Avis Kuuipoleialoha Poai, Director of Archives and Legal History

Aloha mai! On behalf of Ka Huli Ao’s legal history and digital archives program, I am pleased to share a few highlights from the past few months that best illustrate our continuing efforts to serve students, faculty, and the community. In this issue, I would like to focus on Ka Huli Ao’s partnerships with the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center and the Hawaiʻi State Archives, which reflects Ka Huli Ao’s ongoing commitment to community outreach efforts.

On September 30, 2016, Governor Ige proclaimed October 2016 as “Archives Month.” Specifically, the proclamation stated, “historical records contain much of Hawaiʻi’s rich and diverse heritage and are crucial to understanding the past, learning from the accomplishments of our predecessors, tracing our ancestors . . . maintaining laws and providing guidance to future generations.” The archives plays an important role for us today because “careful and thorough record-keeping has always been an important function of an open democracy and safeguards the right and freedoms of all citizens.”

Demonstrating digitization at the archives with Rachel Figueroa, and Iokepa (my son).

Thus, in celebration of Archives Month, on October 28, 2016, Post-J.D. fellow Rachel Figueroa and I participated in the Hawaiʻi State Archives Open House that had over 150 visitors from the general public. The Open House was held to commemorate 110 years of “serving the public and preserving government records.” The event permitted the public to view some of the more unique, historic and significant artifacts and documents that are a part of the Hawaiʻi State Archives’ rarely seen collections. Ka Huli Ao provided a first-hand look at the digitization process that is used for capturing images of archival materials.  It allowed us to interact with a wide-range of community members, including legislators, academics, students, agency employees, and others.

Since 2015, I have had the honor of serving as a contributing researcher, editor, and writer for the Hawaiian Legal Dictionary—a project spearheaded by the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center.  The project is comprised of a consortium of archivists, librarians, historians, and Hawaiian language specialists.  We are presently working on creating and annotating entries with citations to (primarily) nineteenth century legal sources, including constitutions, cases, statutes, and other legislative materials.  We work closely with the Hawaiʻi State Archives to digitize Kingdom era legal materials for use in this dictionary. Hundreds of legal terms have been amassed and vetted thus far. Progress is slow, but all of us are convinced that this project will be of great value to the community when it is completed.