Lively exhibits such as the current World of WearableArt keep Bishop Museum fresh. // © 2015 Bishop Museum
Feature image (above): Bishop Museum bills itself as the premier place to explore Hawaii’s history, art and culture. // © 2015 Bishop Museum
For more than 126 years, Honolulu-based Bishop Museum has curated and cared for the cultural and natural history of Hawaii and the Pacific. Now, as it continues to tell tales of the past, it is upgrading the visitor experience with an eye toward the future.
“With the hiring of key staff this past year who have experience in the visitor industry, we have collected more information on current trends ... as well as rekindled our industry and media relationships, with an increased priority on tourism,” said Claudette Springer, marketing and public relations manager for Bishop Museum.
Upgrades and Travel Agent Outreach
The museum recently completed a major renovation, which included upgrades to its Pacific Hall, parking lots and walkways. It received an energy-efficiency grant from the state to make eco-friendly improvements throughout its campus.
Additionally, the museum is hiring a new sales director, who will put the museum front and center with travel agents and hotel concierges.
“The new sales initiatives will focus on creating half- and full-day visitor packages, including behind-the-scenes tours, so that travel agents can promote the Bishop Museum experience with ease and confidence,” Springer said.
In its planetarium, the museum has introduced a limited engagement run of laser light shows, from holiday presentations for families to Pink Floyd shows for date nights.
“We are currently renting the laser light system for three months (through Jan. 5), which allows us to gauge if the experience is something our visitors would like to see as a standard offering,” said Mike Shanahan, director of visitor experience and planetarium for Bishop Museum. “Should that be the case, we will look into investing in a permanent laser system that would allow us to create customized Bishop Museum shows.”
Special Exhibits and a New Cafe
Along with its permanent displays, the museum continues to feature short-run shows such as the World of WearableArt, currently on view through Feb. 1. Fusing fashion and art, the New Zealand-based exhibit showcases award-winning garments from an international design competition along with fun, interactive installations.
Further enhancing the visitor experience is the new Bishop Museum Cafe by Highway Inn, a partnership with a popular local Hawaiian restaurant. Currently, visitors can sample Highway Inn favorites in a scaled-down setting at the museum. A $500,000 renovation is underway to create a permanent space for the eatery, with indoor and outdoor seating.
Bishop Museum, which used to be closed on Tuesdays, has expanded its operating hours, and it is now open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s all part of a comprehensive plan to add programs and activities that will provide the best experience for museumgoers, Springer says.
“The visitor industry has shown that the typical visitor to Hawaii wants to have an authentic cultural experience that is hands-on, educational and fun at a good price point,” Springer said. “Bishop Museum is uniquely qualified to deliver this.”