Visitor Information Contact Us Site Map
Pacific Tsunami Museum header
Mission Statement
We believe that through education and awareness no one should ever again die in Hawaii due to a tsunami.
The goal of the Pacific Tsunami Museum is to promote public tsunami education for the people of Hawaii and the Pacific Region. The museum will also preserve the social and cultural history of Hawaii and promote economic development on the island of Hawaii as well as statewide. The museum will serve as a living memorial to those who lost their lives in past tsunami events.
Vision Statement
The Pacific Basin has a long and dramatic history of devastation and rebirth caused by natural disasters. In general, most people are familiar with the destruction and loss of life caused by hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes. Unfortunately, the general public does not understand enough about tsunamis. Tsunamis have killed more people in the State of Hawaii than all other natural disasters combined. Tsunamis are a fact of life in Hawaii, especially in Hilo, which has suffered more damage than any other area of the islands. From 1900 to 1964, a tsunami with run-up exceeding 1 meter occurred an average of once every five years. On April 1, 1946, and May 23, 1960, Hilo experienced devastating tsunamis that completely reshaped the social and economic structure of the community.

Over the last thirty years, Hawaii has experienced enormous growth of both resident and visitor populations, with extensive development in potential inundation areas. During this same time period very little tsunami activity has occurred. A whole generation of people has grown up without experiencing a major tsunami. Less than half our resident population and few visitors to Hawaii have had any experience with tsunami hazards. Aging tsunami survivors, many of whom still reside within the State, are passing on. These tsunami survivors have invaluable stories to tell that can help document the cultural history and socio-economic development of Hawaii. In the Hawaiian Islands, natural disasters, especially tsunamis, have played a significant role in determining where people live and conduct business. Currently, very few tsunami education programs reach the general public or Hawaii's school children.
Description of the Organization
The Pacific Tsunami Museum, a non-profit organization, working in collaboration with the International Tsunami Information Center, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, the University of Hawaii (at both Hilo and Manoa), and State and County Civil Defense Agencies, was incorporated in August, 1994. The Internal Revenue Service has granted the museum federal tax-exempt status retroactive to August 1994. The museum has a policy making Board of Directors that includes representation from various sectors of the business community (see organization below). Many of the board members are either tsunami survivors or come from families that were directly affected by past tsunamis. The museum also has a Scientific Advisory Council that includes internationally recognized tsunami researchers. The museum has received in-kind support from the local business community, as well as many hours of support from a dedicated volunteer work force.
Project Description
The Pacific Tsunami Museum provides residents and visitors to the State of Hawaii with much needed tsunami education programs. One of the factors that makes this museum unique is that it is a living monument to those who lost their lives in past tsunamis. By combining scientific information with actual testimony taken from oral histories of tsunami survivors, the museum plans to keep the history alive in its exhibits and public programs. Oral history testimonies reinforce existing scientific information and provide a perspective that will make the tsunami experience "real" for the museum visitor. The museum is dedicated to providing public programs that are accessible to all museum visitors. It also plans to provide foreign language translations for all published museum program materials.

The museum features a series of in-house permanent exhibits that interpret the tsunami phenomena, the Pacific Tsunami Warning system, the history of tsunamis in the Pacific Basin, tsunamis of the future, myths and legends about tsunamis, and public safety measures for tsunami disasters.

On an international level, the Pacific Tsunami Museum is intended to become the Worldwide Center for Tsunami Research. The museum will foster national and international tsunami research. Scientists from Chile and Japan have already indicated an interest in collaborating with the museum. The museum will provide the scientific community with support services, such as office space and a research library, in exchange for assistance with public programs. The research library will serve as a repository for documents relating to tsunamis. Besides keeping the museum up to date, its research "arm" will generate future revenue for the museum through its collection of indirect overhead charges on scientific grants.

Because a large portion of the museum is about oral history, the museum also serves as a resource center for community residents who are interested in conducting their own oral history projects. The museum consults with Mr. Warren Nishimoto, Director of the Center for Oral History, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and plans to work with the Center on a continuing basis.




All materials © Copyright 1996-2010 Pacific Tsunami Museum Inc.
130 Kamehameha Ave Hilo, HI 96720 tel: 808-935-0926 FAX: 808-935-0842 email:
Last Revised July, 2010