Though the future of sugar on Maui is a topic of growing interest and frequent controversy, few local residents seem to visit the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum in Pu'unene, where sugar's past is on display. But given the changing perception of sugar and the tenor of the times, it's definitely worth a look.
The museum is located across the street from Hawai'i's last working sugar mill on Hansen Road in Pu'unene. It documents the role sugar played in Maui's history, economy and ethnic heritage. The displays are housed in a 1,800-square-foot plantation-style superintendent's residence built in 1902.
The exhibits chart the establishment and growth of the industry here and look at sugar's influence on the development of Maui's water resources and multi-ethnic immigrant heritage, too. The displays include the inner workings of a sugar mill and also reference geography and information on the company's founders.
Pu‘unēnē Mill can be seen from the grounds of the museum.
There are many photos and artifacts of plantation camp life from the first half of the 20th century, with an emphasis on Pu'unene and Pa'ia. Both those town were formerly major population centers on Maui. One particularly informative section shows the celebrated swimmers from Pu'unene, coached by the legendary Soichi Sakamoto, who led his plantation-based team to international fame.
Both indoors and out, there are interesting looks at the mechanical technology of an earlier age, as well as some examples of gigantic equipment that was used to grow, harvest and refine sugar here.
According to the museum Website, maps of the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S), Maui Agricultural Co. (MACo) and Pioneer Mill Company (PMCo) plantation camps can be viewed by appointment. The site also offers a registry form for former camp residents or their families to fill out.
The museum, located at 3957 Hansen Road, is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is a nominal charge for admission, with discounts to local residents, seniors, groups and military. There is also a small gift shop.
Visit www.sugarmuseum.com for more details.