‘Highly unlikely’ Jaggar Museum will reopen

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Tourists flock to see the lava lake in Kilauea in April at Jaggar Museum in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
  • In this file photo, Visitors look at the Herb Kane mural that depicts Hawaiian deities at the Jaggar Museum in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. HOLLYN JOHNSON/Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park announced some of its exhibits will be displayed in Pahoa as it casts more doubt on Jaggar Museum reopening.

Park spokeswoman Alexis Brooks said Wednesday it is “highly unlikely” Jaggar, which includes a popular viewing area on the edge of Kilauea’s caldera, will be open to the public again after National Park Service geomorphologists noted the caldera ledge there is “extremely unstable.”

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Where or when a new museum will be made remains to be seen.

The park, which plans a partial reopening Sept. 22, is currently assessing what it will need to fully recover after experiencing dozens of collapse events at the caldera and thousands of earthquakes, caused by the withdrawal of magma to the lower East Rift Zone eruption. That forced the closure of the park, except for the Kahuku unit, in May.

Brooks said priorities will be repairing roads and replacing the park’s water system.

The facilities at Jaggar, constructed in 1986, also includes the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Janet Babb, HVO spokeswoman and geologist, said she has not received a final determination as to whether the geologists’ facilities can be reused.

In the meantime, HVO staff are working from the customs building at Hilo Harbor and in or around University of Hawaii at Hilo, she said. HVO’s archives are being stored at a climate-controlled location.

“We do have the equipment that we need,” said Babb, who noted having staff spread out across Hilo presents some challenges.

Exhibits from Jaggar were removed in June.

Some will be loaned to the Mainstreet Pahoa Association, whose president, Matt Purvis, said they are hoping to host in a few weeks.

A tentative location for the Pahoa visitor center has been identified next to Kaleo’s Bar &Grill, he said.

Purvis said Pahoa businesses are slowly recovering after seeing a large drop in customers after the eruption started in nearby Leilani Estates. No lava flows have been active on the surface outside of fissure 8 for about a month. He’s hoping the displays, and visits by park rangers, will help attract tourists.

“We’re still slow, but it’s coming back little by little,” said Purvis, who owns Tin Shack Bakery.

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Ben Hayes, park chief of interpretation, said the association approached the park about the idea. He said no other sites have been identified for hosting exhibits, though the park will consider ideas from the public or community groups.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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