Jaggar Museum

Single story rectangular building with lava rock facade.
Jaggar Museum exterior and observation deck in 2013.

NPS Photo Ed Shinoki

Jaggar Museum was the first park museum in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, sharing volcano science and Hawaiian culture with millions of visitors over many decades.

In 2018, a new eruption of Kīlauea volcano changed the island of Hawai‘i forever. From May through August the summit area of the park was dramatically changed by tens of thousands of earthquakes, towering ash plumes, and a massive collapse of Kīlauea caldera. Both Jaggar Museum and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory were severely damaged from the thousands of earthquakes during the eruption. Once one of the most treasured visitor contact stations, Jaggar Museum, will soon be demolished.

Black and white image of one-story rectangular building with lava rock foundation.
The two buildings that later became known as Jaggar Museum were constructed in 1927 and originally named the "Uwekahuna Musuem." This building was the Lecture Hall and a smaller building on the other side was the Naturalist Building.

NPS Photo circa 1930.

The first buildings, originally referred to as the "Uwekahuna Museum," were constructed by the Hawaii Volcano Research Association in 1927 at Uēkahuna, an area of deep cultural significance to Native Hawaiians and considered by many to be sacred. Soon after construction, the buildings were transferred over to the National Park Service (NPS). The first buildings consisted of a small museum, known as the "naturalist building" and a lecture hall to accommodate the growing numbers of visitors. The lecture hall building also served as offices for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The visitor serving areas was later renamed Jaggar Museum in honor of Dr. Thomas A. Jaggar, the renowned volcanologist who first introduced the notion of having a permanent geologic observatory and laboratory on the island. Dr. Jaggar managed the research program in the park for decades.

Workers joining metal beams in a basement with small crane overhead.
The new Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Okamura Building basement under construction on August 12, 1985. The Jaggar Museum is visible behind the new construction.

USGS Photo

In the 1980s, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) built the two-story Okamura Building adjacent to Jaggar Musuem to house offices and laboratory spaces for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO). Later named after Reginald T. Okamura, long-time HVO Chief of Operations, this new building was the largest addition to the HVO and Jaggar Museum building complex. At the same time, Jaggar Museum underwent a major renovation and new museum exhibits were installed. Both the new Okamura Building and improved Jaggar Museum were officially opened and dedicated in a large ceremony on January 16, 1987. This was to be the last major change to Jaggar Museum before the 2018 eruption.
People standing at overlook looking at glowing lava in the distance with moon shining above.
From 2008 to 2018, a visit to Jaggar Museum included some of the best nighttime lava viewing in the park.

NPS Photo/Janice Wei

On the evening of May 11, 2018, most of Hawaiʻi Volanoes National park closed due to heightened seismic activity as Kīlauea summit collapsed during a dramatic new eruption. Although no one knew it at the time, that was the last day Jaggar Museum would be open to the public. Months of nearly constant earthquakes caused significant structural damage and destabalized the cliff edge the building rests upon.

After the park reopened on September 22, 2018, assessments from NPS geomorphologists determined the ledge on which Jaggar Museum sits is “extremely unstable,” limiting the use of the buildings and grounds. Since the eruption ended, the NPS and USGS have been working on a disaster recovery project to repair and replace critical infrastructure that was damaged during the 2018 eruption.

In December, 2022, the park released the final plans for the 2018 Eruption Disaster Recovery Project. The project intent is to repair, replace, relocate or remove critical park infrastructure and USGS-operated facilities and equipment damaged during the 2018 eruption and summit collapse. Check out the full and final Disaster Recovery Project details.

Under the final plan, the National Park Service (NPS) will:
  • Demolish three damaged structures at Uēkahuna Bluff on the Kīlauea summit including the former Jaggar Museum, the Okamura Building and the Geochemistry Annex.
  • Repair and restore access to the existing overlook area at Uēkahuna adjacent to the former Jaggar Museum.
  • Replace the Jaggar Museum visitor center function by renovating and expanding the existing Kīlauea Visitor Center (KVC) by the park entrance.
  • Realign Crater Rim Drive near the park entrance and install a roundabout to improve safety.
  • Allow USGS to construct a replacement field station adjacent to the ball field by Kilauea Military Camp in the park.
Demolition of the Jaggar Museum and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory complex will begin in early 2024, bringing to an end a 96-year history of Jaggar Musuem at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

Last updated: February 1, 2024

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