Cabinet for a king now full of antiquities

For years, Kalakaua's cabinet was empty because key was missing

Published  9:02 AM HST Apr 16, 2013
HONOLULU -

It was a busy day for tours at the 'Iolani Palace as visitors from all around the world and Hawaii take a step back in time for a glimpse of the life of our ali'i.

Many will take the time to stop and look at the antiquities in this curio cabinet that belonged to King David Kalakaua made by the A.H. Davenport Company of Boston.  It carries the crown and royal symbols that appear on the palace pieces.

Like many Victorians, Kalakaua loved to use this very cabinet to display his curiosities.

"He collected a variety of things.  He had a lot of gifts from around the world, from his around-the-world travels," said Heather Diamond, 'Iolani Palace curator.  "Gifts that were given by sovereigns and he also had a lot of Hawaiian antiquities."

But for many years, the cabinet sat in a huge room -- empty.

Diamond said palace officials haven't been able to locate the key for the cabinet.

"It's not so easy to call a locksmith to do something on a period piece and especially an actual palace artifact," said Diamond.

But after two years of searching, they finally found the key while cleaning out a desk and they were able to open the door to perpetuate the past.

"I've been waiting to put things into this cabinet for some time, so that was my license to go back through storage to start pulling artifacts to put in here," said Diamond.

In it, you'll find lacquered pieces and figures from Japan as well as a silver sake set given to Kalakaua my the Meiji emperor of Japan.

There's also Hawaii calabashes as well keeping the king's collections alive.

"We always get to see these things and I think it's wonderful to share these with the public because they give a fuller idea of what was the place and the sort of diverse taste of the monarchy," said Diamond.

Palace officials will change out the items every now and then.  In 1881, Kalakaua became the first monarch to circle the globe.  Needless to say, he did a lot of collecting.

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