Sugar Plantation Era Comes Alive at Free Historical Photo Exhibit

Media Release:

A picture is worth a thousand words and the compelling images of the Big Island’s bygone sugarcane industry will be shared at a new exhibit, “A Plantation Town of the Past: Photographs of Paul Christensen 1930s-1970s.”

The free, two-week display opens August 2 at the North Hawai‘i Education & Research Center (NHERC). Through the camera lens of the late Christensen, experience five decades of the Big Isle’s history.

An employee of the sugar industry, Christensen captured plantation life as he saw it. The Brooklyn native served as a timekeeper for Honoka‘a Sugar Company in 1933 before working as a plantation section luna (supervisor) and retiring as an agriculturist.

The exhibit features over 50 vintage images, mostly in black and white, some in color. Shots depict the rich ethnic mix of plantation workers, equipment used, plus community and war-related activities. A rare collection of aerial photos, taken in the 1970s, records the five sugar plantations along the Hamakua Coast.

The exhibit is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday August 2-14. NHERC is an ADA-accessible facility; contact Judith Graham at 808-775-8890 by July 26 to request an auxiliary aid or reasonable modification.

NHERC is easy to find in the heart of Honoka‘a when enroute to Waipi‘o Valley. It’s located next to Honoka‘a’s medical facility at 45-539 Plumeria St. and across from the landmark Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.  For information, phone 808-775-8890.

“A Plantation Town of the Past: Photographs of Paul Christensen 1930s-1970s” is presented by NHERC, a branch of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and the Honoka‘a Business Association. It is supported by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the County of Hawai‘i and private community contributions. For more information, visit

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