By way of Hawai‘i’s largest moving-image archive in the islands, generations raised on YouTube and Netflix have a resource for better understanding Hawai‘i’s rich cultural history.
"Believe it or not, some generations don’t know what any of this is," says Heather Giugni, referring to retired film projectors on display at the entrance to the Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawai‘i at University of Hawai‘i at West O‘ahu. The archive is named after Native Hawaiian public servant Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni, who was Senator Daniel Inouye’s longtime legislative aide and the U.S. Senate’s sergeant at arms. As the daughter of this namesake and the archive’s cultural collection specialist, Heather has a passion for Hawai‘i film and video that includes a deeper cause: preservation.
Memory institutions such as archives, museums, and libraries are important repositories of community memories. While Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum and University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa have large audiovisual collections, Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Archive is the first moving-image archive in Hawai‘i. Also known as ‘Ulu‘ulu, the Hawaiian word for “gathering” or “assembling,” the archive’s mission is to preserve the materials and perspectives of local filmmakers, television journalists, and documentarians. Finding the work of independent creators can sometimes be a challenge, often resembling a salvage mission due to the fragile nature of analog media. “We found a very valuable collection of videotapes under the house,” says Heather about gathering archives of a Moloka‘i-based filmmaker who interviewed many kūpuna (elders).
An accomplished local filmmaker and producer herself, Heather began her archival journey with collecting and preserving her own work as well as films of her colleagues and predecessors. Inspired by past archivists, Heather formalized a plan to assemble a moving-images collection and sought operational funding. In 2007, at the behest of Senator Daniel Inouye, who wanted to honor his longtime friend, the U.S. Congress earmarked funds for the University of Hawai‘i to create an archive in Giugni’s name.
Establishing ‘Ulu‘ulu in collaboration with the Academy for Creative Media, Heather started by hiring an archival consultant to identify the technical requirements of such an endeavor. In 2009, ‘Ulu‘ulu then launched a pilot program to test a longterm solution for archiving Hawai‘i’s visual history, including acquisition, transfer, and identification of the content. The results were promising. At first, the archive was hosted in spare office spaces and television studios around Honolulu. But with support from local museums and content partners, it gained its own full-fledged facility at the campus library of the University of Hawai‘i at West O‘ahu.
Today the general requirement for a film to qualify for the archive is simple: It has to relate to Hawai‘i. ‘Ulu‘ulu has preserved everything from family-vacation films sent from the continent to the entire collection of Don Ho’s legacy, all of which are sampled in clips on the archive’s website. Staff are consistently fielding requests from the public on a range of subjects. The archive’s next goal is to acquire “borndigital” content, work created on digital media, a challenge for which they are uniquely qualified.
So far, the ‘Ulu‘ulu team has gathered the most extensive collection of locallyproduced video and film content in the state, including collections from PBS Hawai‘i, Friends of ‘Iolani Palace, Hawaiian Airlines, and the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Under the direction of head archivist Janel Quirante, the daily business of ‘Ulu‘ulu involves cataloging, digitizing, and identifying content. The work is intensive but worthwhile. “It’s not just about collecting, you have to think about the future,” Giugni says. With these forgotten recordings of yesterday brought into the modern age of constant connectivity, researchers and storytellers have a new, invaluable tool upon which to draw.
For more info, visit http://uluulu.hawaii.edu/