‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, a part of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, opened its doors on February 20, 2006.
The $28 million, 40,000-square-foot exhibition and planetarium complex is located on nine acres in the University of Hawaii's Science and Technology Park, above the UH-Hilo campus.
Originally called the Maunakea Astronomy Education Center, Imiloa was developed in the mid-1990s by a team of educators, scientists and community leaders who understood the need for a comprehensive educational facility that would showcase the connections between the rich traditions of Hawaiian culture and the groundbreaking astronomical research conducted at the summit of Maunakea.
One of the key driving forces behind 'Imiloa is U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, who has helped secure federal funding at every step from planning to construction. His continued support has been vital to the growth of the facility.
"Let us proceed forward, working together through open communication and, where necessary, compromise to allow for continued scientific exploration and discovery... [and] education that bridges astronomy and culture in a way that will inspire Hawaii's children to seek a career in science. I look forward to working with you."
— U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, October 1, 2001
Another driving force for ‘Imiloa has been UH-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng, who provided leadership, university resources and passion to ensure ‘Imiloa’s development and construction, and operating stability.
A Content Advisory Panel contributed to early discussions about what ‘Imiloa's interpretative mission would be. This group included:
Concept and design phases began in 1999, and construction of ‘Imiloa was started in 2002. Taisei Construction Corporation completed the building and landscaping in November 2005. The architectural design, directed by architect Mel Choy, M5 Architecture (formerly Durrant Media 5) features three titanium-covered cones, representing the volcanoes of Maunakea, Maunaloa and Hualalai. The cones provide a distinctive and highly visible landmark, easily seen by visitors arriving by air and driving into Hilo from almost any direction. The award winning landscape was designed by Randall Monaghan of Honolulu working with Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikolani, the UH-Hilo Hawaiian Language College. See a time-lapse video of the building’s construction.
List of Past Directors who contributed to the early development and building of ‘Imiloa include George Jacobson, Walt Steiger, and Marlene Hapai. Prior to that, a number of individuals from UH-Hilo contributed their time and energies. The Center opened in 2006 under Executive Director Peter Giles. Associate Director Ka‘iu Kimura in 2009 was named Interim Executive Director and continues to build upon the strength of the organization, carving out new directions and opportunities for ‘Imiloa.
‘Imiloa brings together members of the Hawaiian and astronomy communities to share a common vision for the future, bringing information about the cultural and natural history of Maunakea to students, teachers, our local residents, and visitors from around the world. ‘Imiloa links to early Polynesian navigation history and knowledge of the night skies, and today’s renaissance of Hawaiian culture and wayfinding with parallel growth of astronomy and scientific developments on Hawaii Island.
Since opening, ‘Imiloa has served thousands of Hawaii Island school children, as well as children from throughout the State of Hawai‘i in a number of educational programs including field trips, family workshops, afterschool programs, Furlough Friday activities, robotics tournaments, and even overnight sleepover events. Detail of these educational initiatives can be found in the Bakken Reports.