The museum has had a Lending Collection since it opened in 1927—originally comprised of works from founder Anna Rice Cooke’s own collection, it developed into a repository of donated objects from around the world that are high-grade teaching tools, but not right for inclusion in the museum’s art collection. Any educator could borrow items from the Lending Collection to use in class lessons. By 2008, the Lending Collection, housed in the Art School basement, had become an unwieldly hoarder’s paradise. The museum closed it to the public and a troupe of volunteers, including Trustees James Pierce and Dwayne Preble, sifted through the thousands of objects. The space was cleaned and reorganized, coordinator Beth Doughty was hired in October 2012, and the collection had a soft reopening in April.

The response was immediate, and in August, with the start of the new school year, Beth fully opened the collection for business. Currently about 400 of the collection’s 10,000 items are on loan to teachers at schools such as Wheeler Middle School, Mililani High School, Le Jardin Academy, and Kaimiloa Elementary School.

The collection is organized geographically, and according to Beth, the most popular region is Hawai‘i and Polynesia. “Particularly kapa and kapa-making implements,” she says. At the moment, upper grade school and middle schools are covering ancient civilization, so there has been a run on objects related to Mesopotamia and Egypt (a mix of tourist reproduction tchotchkes and genuine artifacts such as a square of mummy cloth). Later in the year objects from Greece, Rome and Persia will be popular. There are objects relevant to nearly any event you can think of, such as timely Day of the Dead items from Mexico.

Beth, who has an MA in art history and museum studies from the University of Oregon, is thrilled that loans from the collection are on the rise—and not just to teachers. “Organizers of the Hawai‘i Hispanic Heritage Festival borrowed 50 Latin American objects that they will use in an educational booth at the event on October 26,” says Beth.

Get all the details on Lending Collection hours and policy here.

Any educator can borrow items from this collection of more than 10,000 objects for free.

The Lending Collection includes an impressive selection of African works.