Archivists collect images of historic Lahaina to ensure community’s rich past is never forgotten

As a librarian archivist at the Hawaiian Mission Houses, Marilyn Reppun has a deep understanding of Lahaina’s importance to Hawaii’s history.
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 4:10 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 11, 2023 at 4:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As a librarian archivist at the Hawaiian Mission Houses, Marilyn Reppun has a deep understanding of Lahaina’s importance to Hawaii’s history.

The town was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the center of Christianity on Maui.

Now, timeless structures and priceless artifacts are among the ruins of the disaster.

“I could see everything in my mind in terms of views and even letters and journals written by Lahaina missionaries, written by Native Hawaiians,” Reppun said. “It was overwhelming.”

The Hawaiian Mission Houses and its partner the Lahaina Restoration Foundation still don’t have an exact inventory of the physical pieces destroyed in the inferno.

But in the weeks since, Reppun has been locating items relevant to Lahaina’s history including original photos, journals, drawings, and letter to upload to the House’s digital archives.

“It’s a small thing that we can do to help restore that history and ensure that these stories live on for future generations and that’s really the value of archives,” said Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site & Archives executive director Erin Shapiro.

“It’s a true record of life during these different times that we can share and learn from.”

It’s all part of a massive digitization project led by Hawaiian Mission Houses and they’re also searching their collection for any period furniture that could replace what was lost.

While full recovery is years away, the hope is to use these archived pieces as a guide to help rebuild and also ensure Lahaina’s history is shared worldwide and never forgotten.

“Basically, you’ve lost hundreds of years of history just in one fell swoop,” said HMHHSA Director of Education Mike Smola. “I think it’s incumbent upon us more than ever to not only make this accessible to the world, but also to share it with our friends and partners on Maui. To help them get back what they’ve lost.”