Adventures in Archives: Liliʻuokalaniʻs “He Buke Mele Hawaii,” 1897

In the month Iʻve been in Honolulu (already!), Aaron Salā and I have been going holoholo on excursions into archives. I arrived here with a long list of things to “spotcheck.” Last nite I posted on facebook that “after doing research for 30 years, I thought would be down to spotchecking, and not opening new cans of worms.” Then over coffee this morning (brain fuel), I realized that this blogging thing allows for writing about the adventures along the way. I donʻt have to wait until all the pieces are in hand and a sober commentary is painstakingly composed to post. So here we go on a new series of posts:  ADVENTURES IN ARCHIVES.

In my previous post, I compared the contents of the 1999 publication The Queenʻs Songbook to Liliʻuokalaniʻs 1897 manuscript. Now that I am in Honolulu for awhile, revisiting the sources of Liliʻuokalaniʻs songbook at the Hawaiʻi State Archives was at the top of my list.

Hereʻs what I knew:

1. I have been working with a typescript of Liliʻuokalaniʻs 1897 manuscript “He Buke Mele Hawaii.”

2. The preface to The Queenʻs Songbook, written by former state archivist Agnes C. Conrad, reports that the queenʻs 1897 manuscript was edited in the 1930s by then-archivist Edmund Hart and composer-publisher Charles E. King.

3. Several years ago at Bishop Museum Archives, I saw a completely handwritten version of the 1897 “He Buke Mele Hawaii” in the Liliʻuokalani Collection.

My questions were these: Had I been looking at the Hart-King typescript all of these years? Was there a manuscript that preceded the typescript I had been working with?

So Aaron & I headed to the State Archives yesterday (after food, of course–coffee, bagel and scone). We sign in, put our stuff away in a locker, and head into the reading room with our iPads. (yes, plural) The reference library on desk duty, a genial fellow named Damon, starts us off in the card catalog. Under “Liliuokalani,” we find an entry for “He Buke Mele Hawaii”, 1897, with a Dewey decimal catalog number. We fill out a request and wait. What comes out in a few minutes is a copy of the typescript that I have been working with all these years.

How do we get to the Hart-King typescript? We have to look in an inventory of manuscript papers from Charles E. King. We find an entry, fill out a request, and wait. What comes out is . . . not what I expected. It is a typescript. But it is not identical to Liliʻuokalaniʻs typescript.  The information has been recopied, and details have been moved around on each page. Most significantly, the Hart-King typescript has only about 85% of the contents of Liliʻuokalaniʻs 1897 manuscript!!

Now I have two unanswered questions:  What did the Hart-King manuscript leave out? And what is the original source of Liliʻuokalaniʻs typescript?

Aaron & I start to really comb the inventory of Liliʻuokalaniʻs manuscript papers, and we find several entries of unpublished collections of songs. We fill out a request. And what comes out is . . . more pieces in a growing jigsaw puzzle. More xeroxes. Of the Liliʻuokalani 1897 typescript. But also, a folder of xeroxes of song lyrics in Liliʻuokalaniʻs handwriting and on her personal stationery. The songs are grouped into three sets of 12 songs in each group.

At this point, the amazing Luella Kurkjian, keeper of the safe, goes to fetch the original documents from the safe. Woo hoo !!! We get to see original documents. And what comes out is this: a bound copy of the original 1897 typescript. Mystery of source of 1897 typescript solved.

Plus, a new mystery. In a separate folder are  the original copies of handwritten song lyrics on Liliʻuokalaniʻs personal stationery. Three sets of 12 songs each. And content pages that list up to 10 sections. The first two sets contain songs that are included in the 1897 manuscript. The third section contains “Sacred Songs” that are not included in the 1897 manuscript. There is no evidence of sets 4-10 other than the page listing the contents of sections 9 and 10.

By this point, my brain is fried. So we leave the Archives in search of — food! We will definitely be going back to the Archives again. Stay tuned!

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5 Responses to Adventures in Archives: Liliʻuokalaniʻs “He Buke Mele Hawaii,” 1897

  1. cheryl says:

    Amy, It is great to be traveling with you and Aaron. How exciting to find everything! Original copies of the Queen’s writing!

  2. amykstillman says:

    Hi Cheryl–thanks for letting us know you enjoy this. Iʻll be posting pictures eventually.
    aloha,
    amy k.

  3. Holly Nämaka Lindsay says:

    Mahalo no kou hana maika’i e Amy!Chicken skin here in Minnesota as I read about your research… “fill out a request and what come out is…” Mino’aka nui. Mahalo pau’ole for sharing with nä haumäna everywhere. Malama pono.

  4. Pingback: Mele Hawai‘i — Historical Sources | Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure

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