Adventures in Archives: Itʻs a Pandoraʻs Box!

My second visit to the Hawaiʻi State Archives last week was productive, even with Aaron Salā gone to the mainland. Instead of Aaron riding shotgun, I had an entire entourage of dear friends from my mainland life who were visiting Honolulu–Aunty Wanda and Unko Paul Certo from Cleveland, and Molly Eguchi, one of my hula students who lives in Okemos, Michigan (near Lansing and that other university) and her husband Tokuji Eguchi, in town for a 3-day blitz. I talked them all into visiting ʻIolani Palace, then heading over to the State Archives. I talk their ears off about archival treasures, so I thought it would be a great opportunity for them to see it for themselves.

And what a great idea that was. A visitor to the Archives gets to see one thing at a time. But if I am with 2 or 4 other people, everyone gets to put in a request and have one thing at the table at the same time. So I promptly put everyone to work!! (Yes, that is Molly @ the computer. No, the computer is not hers; its mine. But Molly is running it.)

My goal for the day was to get a handle on the contents of the “Hart-King” manuscript of Liliʻuokalaniʻs “He Buke Mele Hawaii,” which archivist Edmund Hart and songwriter/publisher Charles E. King prepared in the 1930s. Aunty Wanda was tasked with turning the pages and reading out song titles as I typed out the list. Note to self–always have a page turner from now on. The task gets done in half the time.

Then the amazing Luella Kurkjian came out to the Reading Room, and brought us a REAL treasure from the safe–the original copies of a set of Liliʻuokalaniʻs song lyrics written by her. We were in the presence of the Queenʻs handwriting and her poetic manaʻo. It was quite a moment. So much so that it did not occur to me to take photos. For you, dear readers, that means I will be making another trip to the State Archives!

We learned two things.

1. The Hart-King manuscript

And now < . . . drum roll . . . >, the Hart-King manuscript contains approximately 108 songs. I say “approximately,” because counting is a fluid endeavor here. Where there are song translations on separate pages following the Hawaiian, those two entries are counted as one song. But there are also some instances where there is more than one mele written on a page that has only one title and one tune. Bottom line: gotta recount. Carefully.

2. The new Pandoraʻs Box: “Series”

There was a folder of  sheets of paper with mele lyrics, written by the Queen. Yes, her handwriting. And the paper was printed stationery adorned with a blue figure and a crown. [Note to self–learn the “proper” term for the beautiful scroll figure.] Each sheet contained one mele.  The sheets were grouped into three groups. And for each group, the top page was a list of contents in that group. Here is a xerox copy of the xerox copy that we actually get to xerox. (Got that?)

Dig the information!! You can see the scrolly thingie at the top of the page. The list has 12 items. At the very bottom of the page is written “Copyrighted in 1884”  In the list of songs, #8-10 include the notes “Waltz Song No. 1,” “Waltz Song No. 2,” and “Waltz Song No. 3”. Does this numbering suggest that the three songs might have been conceived as one set? Or were they numbered as a set just because they are grouped together here?

But the new mystery is the title — “1st Series.” The contents page of the second group of mele is titled “2nd Series.” The contents page of the third group is titled “Sacred Music.” Most of these sacred songs were NOT included in Lili’uokalaniʻs “He Buke Mele Hawaii” of 1897, or The Queenʻs Songbook published in 1999.

And the biggest mystery: one last contents page:

A different kind of paper from the pretty stationery. This paper is ordinary, and lined. But look at the headings–“Mahele Eiwa” and “Mahele Umi”–Section Nine and Section Ten.

Okay, the first question is a no-brainer. Section 9 and 10? So where are sections 3 or 4 through 8? Look at the numbering. Section 9 begins at 97. What is # 1-96? Section 10 is blank. Was there supposed to be contents there? Or …?  These kinds of numbered-but-left-blank spaces have haunted me in other sources too. [Hint: He Lei No Ka Moi Wahine Kapiolani]

Stay tuned, dear readers! Yesterday I went to Bishop Museum Archives. The Pandoraʻs Box grows bigger.

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4 Responses to Adventures in Archives: Itʻs a Pandoraʻs Box!

  1. Ohhhhh, this is so exciting Dr. Stillman! I am a grad of UH Manoa (friend of Lynn Piccoli) and now doing ethnomusicology at the U of Auckland…and SO proud of “our” legacy of composition, artistry and excellence in mele! Good luck with your research!

  2. Hokule'a says:

    Kudos to you Amy, for your dedicated archival sleuthing. I hope the world understands why we need librarians and archivists. Still many more mysteries to be solved from history!

  3. amykstillman says:

    Thanks Jen–The care and feeding of librarians and archivists is a topic I cover regularly in research seminars.

  4. Wanda Certo says:

    Sleuthing in the archives was the highlight of our vacation for me. What terasures there are there. It was exiting just to read the catalogs to see what treasures are available. But when we actually got to see these mele in the Queen’s handwriting, well, I cannot begin to tell you how I felt. It was a misty-eyed moment for sure. Thank you so much for letting us help you that day. I shall never forget it.

    Me ke aloha,
    Aunty Wanda

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