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An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology


The Museum's work in ethnology covers two periods: the first extending from 1889 to 1919, the second from 1920 onward. During the first period of 31 years, the Director was William J. Brigham, M.A., D.Sc. (Harvard). The construction of buildings and furnishings, the arrangement for exhibition, and the storing of material, all took time and thought. Local koa wood was used in the construction of tall exhibition cases, which, though they must have given great satisfaction at the time, are now outmoded. However, the Museum has inherited the furniture of a past age, and thorough modernization is a financial problem difficult to solve.

The wealth of Hawaiian material in the collection and the very terms of the foundation determined the policy of the Museum in devoting first attention to the study of Hawaiian ethnology. The Director concentrated his efforts in this direction and produced a number of monographs on the Hawaiian arts and crafts which will be found listed under his name in the list of literature on Hawaii. The Museum established its own printing press and the memoirs were published in quarto size with copious illustrations. These publications also listed the material in the Museum and thus served the additional purpose of providing illustrated catalogs. The Director was ably assisted by J. F. G. Stokes, Curator of Polynesian Collections, and Stokes went farther in his studies by working out techniques, as exemplified in his work on netted carriers (koko) of the Hawaiians. A number of local authorities, such as Fornander, contributed in the fields of mythology, history, and traditions, though their manuscripts were not published until after the regime of Dr. Brigham had ended. The first period may thus be characterized as the Hawaiian period.

The second period has been influenced, not only by natural growth and expansion but by events which changed the status of the Museum from a purely local institution to one with an international reputation.

In 1919, Herbert E. Gregory, Ph.D. (Yale), Silliman Professor in Geology at Yale, was granted a temporary release, and he assumed administrative charge of the Museum with the title of Acting Director in May of that year. It was during the early part of Dr. Gregory's term of office that various events took place which are so important in the history of ethnological research that they will be referred to individually in the following pages.