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Museum Consortium | University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
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The University of Hawai‘i Museum Consortium



he University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. The University’s Master Plan includes an objective to “build digital library services and operations” where a broad range of information is accessible directly to the public via computer networks. The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for distance learning. Total enrollment is currently 18,865 (Undergraduate 13,689; Graduate 5,176) with approximately 15% of the students being Native Hawaiians/Part Native Hawaiian. Hawai’i’s geographic position between the East and West also creates opportunities for international leadership and influence.

University collections have historically served as major humanities resources for scientific, ethnographic, historical, and cultural studies. Asian-Pacific expertise and culture permeate the UH campus collections. As technology has revolutionized scholarly communication through the development of the Internet, the University of Hawai‘i has become increasingly committed to developing initiatives in digital preservation and the storage and delivery of information. 

In response to the growing demand of the public for digital access to these collections (especially from teachers and students), the University of Hawai‘i Museum Consortium (UHMC) was created to initiate the first campus-wide Virtual Museum (UHVM) through the shared application of a leading museum management software (KE EMu).

Consortium Organization

The University of Hawai‘i Museum Consortium (UHMC) is currently chaired by Dr. Karen K. Kosasa, Director of the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program. Dr. Michael Thomas, Collection Manager of the Joseph F. Rock Herbarium. The UHMC is composed of curators, collections managers, directors, faculty, and volunteers from UH collections and galleries on all UH campuses. 

Importance of the University Collections

The University of Hawai‘i Museum Consortium affirms the crucial role played by campus cultural and natural history collections and gallery spaces in support of teaching, research, and public out-reach projects and activities. 

Cultural collections provide opportunities for people to learn about the extraordinary variety of objects created by a particular society and how they are made, used, and valued. Viewing and sometimes handling collections allow students to appreciate the materials, design, and function of an object within a historic period and/or its changes over time. For many curators the research they conduct to understand the significance of an object and its contextual meanings is crucial to their work and contributions to their disciplinary fields. By enabling students access to collection objects either through direct contact or via digital formats, curators can help students to appreciate the work of scholars in exploring and establishing the importance of material culture in societies. Finally, curators can help students to understand the need for developing and providing interpretive materials to accompany objects within a collection, so that visitors can appreciate what they see in a cabinet or drawer, or in an exhibition.

Collections of natural history specimens are the foundation for all studies of the diversity of living organisms and evolution. Specimens provide enormous economic and scientific returns to society and are irreplaceable resources that must be preserved for future generations. 

Specimens provide the foundation of nomenclature, the basis for identification, the common reference for communication, and the vouchers for floras, as well as for evolutionary and genomic studies. Molecular and morphological characters can be obtained from them that allow us to reconstruct the history of life. All fields of biological science from the level of molecular biology to ecosystem science are dependent on collections, not just for application of names, but as the basis for referencing all aspects of biodiversity. 

Beyond their scientific importance, natural history collections offer many benefits to society by providing data or reference materials for critical endeavors such as agriculture, human health, bio-security, forensics, control of invasive species, conservation biology, natural resources, and land management. Natural History collections provide a wealth of information on our natural heritage and extend back more than a hundred years; thus they provide the only reliable, verifiable record of the changes to our world during the expansion of human population. 

Because natural history collections play such an important role in societal endeavors, continued physical and financial support is absolutely critical. Collections are most valuable in their original institutional and geographical contexts. Therefore, the Museum Consortium strongly advises the university to conserve and maintain its natural collections in perpetuity. Once an institution divests itself of a collection, it is difficult to regain it and all benefits associated with it are lost to future generations. 

UH Museum Consortium Mission

The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Museum Consortium is to support collection and exhibition activities on all University of Hawai‘i campuses by ensuring the proper care and management of collections, stimulating appreciation for collections and exhibitions through increased public access, advocating for administrative supervision, seeking financial support, and preserving both the material condition of collections and their associated digital assets in accordance with the highest professional standards and in the service of the public and the protection of its assets.


``I chose to study Museum Studies at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, as this program offers an ideal combination of theoretical and practical aspects of museum work, dealing with fundamental as well as contemporary issues and challenges in museology, including the role of communities, Native peoples and multicultural education.`` - Katharina Nagler, Museum Studies Graduate Certificate, May 2012


In late 2007, a handful of UHM curators and collections managers convened by the Director of the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program (MSGCP), Dr. Karen K. Kosasa, met to discuss a range of mutual concerns. Calling themselves the Campus Collections Consortium (CCC), they discussed ways they could meet the growing demand for digital access to collections, find resources to support digital preservation and collections care activities, and collaborate on grant applications. CCC members were from the Ethnomusicology Instrument Collection, Jean Charlot Collection, Historic Costume Collection, Nippu Jiji Photo Archive, and Joseph F. Rock Herbarium. 

At the same time, Dr. Kosasa and Dr. Michael Thomas (Joseph F. Rock Herbarium) met with the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, Mr. Thomas Bingham, and the Vice-Chancellor of Research and Graduate Education, Dr. Gary Ostrander, to discuss administrative support for collections activities. Dr. Kosasa and Dr. Thomas also began work on the University of Hawai‘i Virtual Museum (UHVM) with financial assistance from Dean Bingham, College of Arts and Humanities, and later through funds raised by Dr. Karen Kosasa.

UHMC Membership Expertise and Collective Knowledge

The membership of the UH Museum Consortium is comprised of people with expertise in many aspects of museum curation, research, education, and outreach services. It is imperative that members share their collective knowledge and experiences, and provide support for meeting appropriate standards for collections care practices (e.g., providing stable environmental conditions, instituting pest management protocols, utilizing data management systems) to ensure that objects and specimens are protected and will be available for future study. Towards that end, the UHMC offers to assist institutional collections in developing plans for managing and maintaining collections and for effectively integrating collections into research, education, and outreach activities.