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Hawaiian newspapers re-digitized to preserve knowledge

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Bishop Museum is partnering with a language preservation organization to launch a multiyear project designed to preserve and digitize Hawaiian language newspapers across the state, officials said.

The museum will work with Awaiaulu to launch “He Aupuni Palapala” in an effort to bridge Hawaiian knowledge from the past to the present, KHON-TV reported.

A similar effort launched in 2002 attempted to digitize Hawaiian newspapers from microfilm images captured about 40 years ago, but only about 30% of the images are clearly visible, officials said. This newly announced project is expected to improve the quality and quantity of those online collections.

“So if there are 125,000 pages of newspapers and only 56,000 or 60,000 are available online, this would expand that reach,” project manager Kaui Sai-Dudoit said. “It would be more complete, but the imaging itself would be really clean and clear because you are shooting them straight from the originals.”

The first newspaper in Hawaii was printed on Maui in 1834 and was written in the native language. It sparked a wave of learning that led Hawaii to a 90% literacy rate in the state by the mid-1800s.

“Its 114 years of discussion, of change, of transition, that is not included in the current dialogue,” Sai-Dudoit said. “The current history books about Hawaii have been written without the Hawaiian voice. So not only is it inaccurate, it’s kind of incomplete.”

The goal of the project is to provide free access to Hawaiian knowledge for residents and Native communities across generations, Sai-Dudoit said.

The project was offered support from the Hawaii Tourism Authority and received contributions from the Kamehameha Schools, he said. It is unclear how much the project will cost.

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