National landmark known for large Hawaiian archives welcomes new leadership

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Five unknown Hawaiian men pose on a “carte de visite,” or visiting card. The cards became popular during the mid-19th century as photography became affordable. Photo Courtesy: Hawaiian Mission Houses Digital Archive

Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives – a National Historic Landmark in downtown Honolulu – has named a new executive director among several staff changes.

New executive director Erin Shapiro, a museum professional who most recently served as deputy director of community engagement at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia, will now lead the historic site and archives.

“I am so honored and excited to be back in Hawai‘i and to be a part of this organization,” Shapiro said. “I look forward to continuing to grow HMH’s digital outreach capacities and am excited to see the expanded impact the collection has on our local, state, national and global communities.”


The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent 12 companies of missionaries, support staff and teachers, who landed at the Hawaiian Islands between 1820 and 1848. Hawaiian Mission Houses seeks to share the uniqueness of the relationship that occurred in the mid-19th century between the missionaries and Hawaiian aliʻi (chiefs) to cooperate on introducing literacy, Christianity, constitutional government, polyphonic music, Western medicine and the living legacy of that cooperation.

Cooke descendants circa 1922. James “Bud” Morgan is on the far left in the front sitting on his father’s lap. Taken at Luakaha in the back of Nuuanu Valley where the Cookes and then the Athertons had a large house. Photo Courtesy: Hawaiian Mission Houses Digital Archive

The Hawaiian Mission Houses library and historical archive holds over 80,000 digital pieces and is home to one of the largest collections of Hawaiian language printed material in the world.

“Collecting is an intrinsic part of humanity and asking someone what they collect is an insightful way to get to know who they are on a deeper level. Institutional collections function in a similar manner; they are a blueprint of what the organization’s mission and focus is,” Shapiro said. “The Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives has a remarkable permanent collection spanning material culture, books, letters, illustrations and more … Access to and engagement with an institution’s collections has been a priority throughout
my career and will be a focal point as executive director.”

New Hawaiian Mission Houses Executive Director Erin Shapiro. Photo Courtesy: Hawaiian Mission Houses

Other staff changes at the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives are as follows:

  • Elisabeth Case – began Feb. 1 as Director of Development and Marketing. Case has worked with multiple sectors including hospitality, culture and the arts, and education and nonprofits such as The Contemporary Museum (Hawai‘i’s contemporary art museum), Hawai‘i Opera Theatre, and the Hawai‘i chapter of the American Cancer Society.
  • Lisa Solomine – will be stepping into a new role at Hawaiian Mission Houses as curator of community engagement. This newly created position will focus on the development of community and institutional partnerships at the local, state, national, and international level.
The Hawaiian Mission Houses’ cemetery. The first adult missionary buried here was Elizabeth Edwards Bishop (1798 – 1828), the first wife of the Reverend Artemas Bishop, who came to the Hawaiian Islands in 1823 from New Haven. Photo Courtesy: Hawaiian Mission Houses
  • Mike Smola – has been promoted to director of education. He has been on staff since 2008 and has been curator of public programs for the last 12 years. He is also the researcher behind the award winning History Theatre programs at Hawaiian Mission Houses.
  • Marissa Rohlfing – is the incoming society relations director. Born and raised in Hawai‘i, she is a Cooke descendant from the Cooke/Atherton lineage. With a background that includes event planning, running media campaigns, financial management, and creating and sustaining community relationships, Rohlfing aims at cultivating healthy civil discourse between descendants and the administration.
  • Susan Pelfrey – the new curatorial assistant has been involved with Hawaiian Mission Houses since 2000. As Hawaiian Mission Houses’ new curatorial assistant, she will be providing care and maintenance of the collections which will involve everything from updating the database to organizing the collection areas to identifying objects in need of conservation.

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