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Waiakea Town Exhibit Opening
Experience is the best teacher and lessons learned the hard way are rarely forgotten.  That theme is echoed throughout our latest exhibit featuring the town of Waiakea and the tsunami of 1960.  This exhibit features the Waiakea community on Banyan Drive in Hilo prior to 1960, the tremendous seismic activity that occurred in Chile on May 22, 1960 that spawned the disastrous tsunami, the aspects of the existing warning system, and the resulting devastation of the city of Hilo and Waiakea Town.

Waiakea Town alcove

The museum celebrates its tenth anniversary this month, and every step along the way has brought out the most remarkable people who have shared their talent and resources with us. Honors for this exhibit go to Jill Sommer, the archivist and curator of the museum, who was in charge of exhibit design and installation.  The project content was under the supervision of Dr. Walter Dudley of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, a recognized tsunami expert. Left: Waiakea town exhibit alcove


However, opening this exhibit culminates years of planning. The 1960 Exhibit was on the original list of eleven exhibits planned to implement with FEMA funding. We found very quickly that we had over-extended ourselves both in terms of funding and our own time. Nonetheless much information was gathered along the way and over the past two years, proposals and grants were submitted to foundations and organizations for funding. We would like to thank First Hawaiian Bank, KTA Superstores, and Alexander and Baldwin Foundation for helping to fund this exhibit.

Photo of Rev. Sohko Kuki of the Hilo Hooganji Mission blessing our Exhibit on the evening of October 15th, 2004.
Rev. Sohko Kuki of the 
Hilo Hooganji Mission blessing

The exciting stories of six tsunami survivors are featured on a touch screen computer within the exhibit. We hope visitors will learn from their mistakes and insure that when the next destructive tsunami occurs, no one will be injured or lost. There will surely be a next tsunami; nothing can stop the waves from damaging our coastlines. But with the technology and communication now available, there should be no lives lost. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center can provide a timely warning of tsunami disasters, but tsunami education is the only effective means of insuring that the public responds to these warnings in an appropriate manner and does not put themselves at risk of death, injury or disease.

Michael Childers, Jill Sommer, John Coney
Mahalos:  Donna Saiki, Jim Wilson, Walter Dudley, Jill Sommer, Colleen DeSa, Crystal Ogata, Robert Abe, Thomas Jordan, Kilgore, Katie Greenway, Genevieve Cain, John Coney, Mike Childers, Darcy Bevens, Bay Lighting and Design, Mauna Kea Signs, Windward Designs, Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority, Karen Chang and the residents of Waiakea Town.

Photo of Michael Childers, Jill Sommer, John Coney
Director Donna Saiki mixes up her special punch recipe. A simple thank you is not enough to express our gratitude to all the gracious women of Alpha Delta Kappa who provided desserts for the opening and helped serve and clean up!
Director Donna Saiki mixes up her special punch recipe


View photos of the exhibit design phases.



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Last Revised July 2010