Maps document social problems of Territorial Era

“A Study of the Kaimuki Community,” 1939 by S.K.

Research carried out by undergraduate students from the University of Hawaiʻi more than 80 years ago will be on display in Mapping the Territory in Hamilton Library’s Archives’ Moir Reading Room through June 30. Working with professional social scientists, undergraduate student researchers shed light on social conditions in Hawaiʻi in the Territorial era. The maps, papers and documents richly detail life in the Territory from a unique point of view—students at the University of Hawaiʻi.

The maps and papers were submitted as assignments. The community studies illustrate a street, neighborhood, or town; other maps focus on a specific social problem or issue. All the maps, in some way or another, deal with race and ethnic diversity, and all were meant to measure and document how local communities evolved during an important era of social change.

Although the students lacked expertise in sociological theory and method, co-guest curators Lori Pierce and Christine Kirk-Kuwaye said they were able to do what their professors could not—be an unobtrusive presence, able to speak to local residents in Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian or pidgin. Many students investigated their own neighborhoods or interviewed their families and peers; eliciting more information than was asked for on a demographic survey.

“The papers are a record of the past, firsthand accounts by people living at the time,” said Pierce. “Unlike diaries or letters, they were meant to be read. These are voices from the past that we should be paying closer attention to.”

Mapping the Territory is an exhibit of material from the Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory (RASRL) Collection housed in the UH Mānoa Library. This collection is named for Romanzo Adams who founded the Department of Sociology and studied race and race relations in the Territory from 1920 to 1942.

Online feature

The items also will be featured in an online exhibit at Local Citing. The website was created to archive the exhibit but also to bring the materials to a wider audience, especially those outside of Hawaiʻi. In addition to the maps and papers, the website also provides historical information in the form of short essays that help to explain the materials.

Exhibit hours

Mapping the Territory will be on view in the Moir Reading Room. Exhibit hours vary, go to the library’s reading rooms website and look under “Archives and Manuscripts” for hours.

Inquiries regarding the exhibit and RASRL Collection can be emailed to the University Archives and Manuscripts Department.

Source: A UH News story