Imiloa Astronomy Center's Merrie Monarch Program - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Imiloa Astronomy Center's Merrie Monarch Program

Imiloa Astronomy Center Imiloa Astronomy Center
Kaiu Kimura - Interim Director Kaiu Kimura - Interim Director
State of the art planetarium State of the art planetarium

By Malika Dudley - bio | email

HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - To say that Hilo is busy during Merrie Monarch is an understatement. Thousands flood "the city by the bay" for the cultural festival, and they're all looking for things to do, when they're not watching the show. Today, Malika introduces us to a relatively new attraction, as we count down the days to our live broadcast of Merrie Monarch 2010.

The Imiloa Astronomy Center sits high on a hill overlooking the University of Hawaii campus and Hilo bay. But, the best view is actually on the inside. Interim director, Ka'i'u Kimura explains, "We can do some really cool and amazing things, take you off the face of the earth and explore the universe." Their state of the art full-dome planetarium, is the first of it's kind in the world. With a cultural element that makes it truly unique, the center is fully bilingual. "With everything you can choose to continue in Hawaiian or English," says Ka'i'u.

I was thoroughly impressed the instant I walked in, as Ka'i'u and her staff spoke interchangeably in Japanese, Hawaiian and English. "It's really seen as yet another level of expanding the hawaiian language," she says. "We've gotten great testimonies from visitors who were like I didn't realize that the hawaiian language still existed, and it was actually applicable to contemporary scientific concepts."

They actually had to create 200 new words to accommodate some of the astronomical terms. In addition to the bilingual displays - they have audio tours and multi-lingual guides. "Currently we've got the audio in English, in hawaiian and in Japanese, we're working on a Chinese and Korean translation. We oftentimes get requests from our hawaiian language immersion schools for all, full hawaiian language experience, so we rely on our hawaiian language college to provide their professors and students," she explains.

The cultural element extends past language to content as well. Ka'i'u explains, "Leaders from within the voyaging community took part in building the center and a major part of our exhibits is dedicated to sharing the story of Polynesian navigation."

In fact, they put on a yearly navigation festival. Attendance has grown exponentially each and every year. "This parking lot is full of canoes sailing canoes crew members are on each canoe showing the general public how what it takes to live on a canoe how what it takes to operate," she says.

Another event that has become increasingly popular is their week-long celebration in conjunction with the Merrie Monarch. "We thought that Imiloa could offer a place where we could host workshops and presentations that were more geared toward educating people about hula."

This year at the free week of workshops and presentations you can also learn to dance the hula and enjoy the stories of Keaomelemele presented in Hawaiian by local students. "Na Haumana o ke Kula Nawahiokalani'opu'u which is our immersion school in Ke'a'au, they will come back and perform this year."

Doing local outreach is a priority at Imiloa, after all, 85 percent of their visitors are local kama'aina. Ka'i'u explains, "We're actually really happy to see that because it's our local community that's supporting Imiloa and keeping us open, without that we wouldn't be able to exist today."

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