Themes on 20th Century Hawaiʻi

Many of the last themes that we have posted to our website have focused on life in early 20th century Hawaiʻi and practices and traditions that survived from those times. 

ʻUluʻulu is honored to be the repository for so much visual history, and our collection continues to grow in depth and breadth. Our themes aim to showcase the richness of our fascinating resources that are open to anyone to use on their journeys of life-long learning. For more information on how to navigate our themes, check out our blog entry on that here:

Below we’ll detail a little about each of the themes that have recently been posted. You never know when you might find something really special hidden within the short clips; it pays to browse!

And there’s always so much more to learn and see in the footage beyond the clips – don’t forget to reach out to us to see more!

Transportation: Planes, Trains and Waʻa

People have utilized many different forms of transportation to get from place to place on land, across the ocean or through the air. In Hawaiʻi, of course, it’s no different – we’ve used cars, planes, trains and boats of various sorts. But, as usual, we have always done it with a unique sense of flair. 

We had fun pulling together old footage of railroads that ran on many of our islands, the grand, old cars that used to grace the often dirt roads, and scenes of Paniolo working hard on their horses. Tucked away in the frames are the gems that really make these fragments of history so valuable: from the way everyone dressed and behaved during a day out, to seeing the last day of service on the Historic ‘Oahu Railway to catching a glimpse of some of our local heroes in action.

Plantation Life

This theme gives you the opportunity to peek into plantation life as according to footage taken at active plantations over the years and the stories of the people that worked them. While the sugar industry managed to survive in Hawaiʻi until very recently, life in camps has all but disappeared. This theme is an introduction to the years of footage and interviews in our collection with individuals who experienced life in the camps as cane field workers, picture brides, and even labor organizers in major movements that helped form Hawaiʻi’s labor unions. In some cases we were lucky enough to receive footage of life on the plantations, including during strikes, at that time.

Life in the plantations was incredibly difficult. This is a generation that we know we owe a great debt to, and we’re proud to be the caretakers of so many of their stories.

Traditional Arts and Skills

This theme focuses on manual skills that are often associated with working on plantations, as well as, traditional skills that have often been passed down through generations. Some of these skills or arts have been made “obsolete” by modern technology, but nothing can ever really replace the quality and value of the work of a true master.

Armed with foresight, several of the filmmakers who have donated to our archive over the years set out to document the knowledge and stories of Hawaiʻi’s many masters.


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