Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hawaii by Air

Where: National Air and Space Museum

When: through July 2015

Hawai'i is one of the most remote places on earth.  If you look at a map, it's in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, many hours flight, even from the West Coast of the United States.  There are 120 islands in the chain, which is far more than I realized.  In addition to the major islands that make up most people's vacation itinerary, there are numerous smaller atolls and islets.

People have been traveling to Hawai'i for hundreds of years, mostly by water.  Although it was originally used by sailors as a way station, some visitors went purely for pleasure, including, in 1866, Mark Twain, who fell in love with the islands and included a description of them in his book Roughing It.  In 1898, the United States annexed the islands and the number of visitors increased.  In the 1920s wealthy travelers took luxury liners to see the sights, and Waikiki Beach became a tourist destination.  For those who couldn't make the journey, Hawai'i came to American homes via a radio show called "Hawai'i Calls," which featured island music.

Flying clipper ships replaced ocean liners, and passengers traveled to the islands in first class - the only class there was.  After World War II, more airlines were able to fly to Hawai'i, and the trip became both faster and cheaper.  Now, it's hard to think of Hawai'i as remote, as so many people have made the trip.

The display is informative and well done; I was delighted to see several signs directing visitors both to other exhibits at Air and Space, as well as to other displays on the Mall.  Finally, a little cross-referencing!  Was that so hard?  One can only hope that other museums will pick up on this idea.

As much as Air and Space is not my favorite museum, I have seen some intriguing shows there, and happily, this one was located on the west side of the first floor, which is much less crowded than other parts of the building.

Verdict: If you're at all interested in Hawai'i or the history of travel generally, have a look at this small show - easily managed in a lunch hour.

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