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Archivist knew isles by heart

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Retired state Archivist Agnes C. Conrad was "truly considered Hawaii’s pre-eminent historian," said her nephew Hunton Conrad.

Conrad died Monday at the Arcadia Retirement Residence. She was 93.

Conrad moved to Hawaii from Catalina Island, Calif., in the late 1930s and worked as a librarian at the University of Hawaii. In 1955 she was appointed the territorial archivist, and served as state archivist from 1959 to 1982 when she retired.

She created the archives profession in Hawaii and instituted professional standards for archives and record management, according to the Association of Hawaii Archivists website.

She edited countless books and journals due to her reputation for being a stickler for historical accuracy, said friends and family members. Conrad was the fact editor for "The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative of 19th-Century Hawaii," written by W.S. Merwin of Maui, who was selected by the Library of Congress last year as the 17th U.S. poet laureate.

"Many people who wrote books in Hawaii would try to get her to edit their work. She was fantastic in details," said state Archivist Susan Shaner.

Conrad was one of the founding members of the Hawaii Museums Association and was involved in the restoration of Iolani Palace. She also was the driving force of getting "The Queen’s Songbook," by Queen Liliuokalani, published.

Conrad was recognized by many organizations, and received the "Living Treasure" award by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission in Hawaii in 1987. Two years ago Conrad was honored by Gov. Linda Lingle with the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Humanities.

The Association of Hawaii Archivists established an award in her name to recognize contributions by Hawaii archivists. In December 2005 the association honored her with the first award. "She was kind of an icon as far as being knowledgeable about Hawaiian history. … She didn’t even have to look it up. It was all in her head," said Shaner. Harriet Miura, who worked as Conrad’s secretary, said, "She was a walking treasure."

Conrad is also survived by nephews Kelly Conrad and Michael Longmire. Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. next Friday at St. Pius X Church, 2821 Lowrey Ave. in Manoa. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to Catholic Charities Hawaii.

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