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‘History’ on display again: Hawaii Plantation Museum reopens

  • Michael Rose, left, talks with Karl Eschbach through the Plantation Museum in Papaikou on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Rose is visiting the Big Island from California and wanted to find any information on his mother's family, who worked on a sugar plantation.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Michael Rose, left, talks with Karl Eschbach on Tuesday at the Hawaii Plantation Museum in Papaikou. Rose, a visitor from California, wanted to find information about his mother’s family, which worked on a sugar plantation. “Everyone who works here is vaccinated,” said Eschbach, a volunteer who helps owner Wayne Subica.

The Hawaii Plantation Museum has reopened to visitors after closing last year at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volunteer Karl Eschbach helps owner Wayne Subica run the small museum in Papaikou. They wanted to wait to reopen since the museum is tightly packed with a collection of antiques and visuals representing life on the plantations.

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“It hasn’t been super busy since reopening, but we’ve never had tons of people in here at a time even before the pandemic,” Eschbach said. “Luckily, we have had walk-ins every day we’ve been open, and at least one person a day has a history they want to explore here.”

On Tuesday, Michael Rose from California visited the museum to see if he could learn more about his grandparents’ and mother’s history.

Rose’s grandparents moved from the Azores in Portugal to Hawaii Island to work on a sugar plantation, which is where his mother was born in 1915.

“I wanted to see what life was like over here for my family and learn about what they did every day,” Rose said. “It seems I had good timing, since the museum just reopened.”

Eschbach took Rose on a tour of the plantation-era tools and answered any questions Rose had about the history of the plantations.

Volunteers often take people on tours through the museum to help explain some of the items in Subica’s enormous collection

“Everyone who works here is vaccinated, but we’ve gone down from nine volunteers to about five of us,” Eschbach said. “We do anticipate fewer guests, so it’s fine. We only require two volunteers at a time.”

While Eschbach and Subica are excited to reopen the museum, they are watching COVID-19 case counts and the spread of the Delta variant.

“We’re hoping Delta won’t cause us to have to shut down again, but we’ll be keeping an eye on what’s going on,” Eschbach said.

The museum’s website encourages visitors to call ahead before visiting in case it has to close on short notice due to COVID-19.

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The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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