SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Learning about the history of Hawaii, not to mention the Army in Hawaii, has never been easier to access -- or more affordable -- for members of the military community.

Summer is peak season for many museums, a time when family outings serve as an opportunity to connect with heritage and history.

Local and national museums are providing new technologies, innovations and enticements to remind both military residents and visitors about the history Hawaii and of the military in Hawaii.

Tropic Lightning Museum
Bldg. 361, Corner of Waianae Avenue and Flagler Road, Schofield Barracks,

The Schofield Barracks Tropic Lightning Museum is making strides to leverage the latest tablet technology. Originally the post library, the nearly 100-year-old building is undergoing continuing renovations and upgrades and reopened in the spring after structural renovations.

Located in the recently designated Schofield National Historic District, here, visitors can personalize their experience and explore, more deeply than ever before, artifacts from the museum's archives.

The interactive timeline wall features a series of tablets that allows visitors to explore different eras of Schofield history. Each wall-mounted tablet displays a small selection of various documents and photographs dedicated to the 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, or Wheeler Army Airfield -- all subjects within the timeline that stretches from 1909 to 2009.

"(Visitors can search) maps, Christmas menus, photographs of old units, yearbooks and documents in a way they never could before," said Kathleen Ramsden, curator, Tropic Lightning Museum, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii. "Because of the fragile nature and volume of many artifacts and documents, we simply could not make many of them available until now.

"New technology makes this possible," she added.

It took more than half a dozen volunteers almost two years to carefully scan and upload documents for the interactive wall.

The seductively serene exterior of the museum belies other new commitments and expansion.

A temporary exhibit of the 25th Infantry Division's role in the fight against global terrorism will result in a new full-time exhibit that is under construction and scheduled for completion within the next two years with a new museum wing, according to Ramsden.

U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii at Fort DeRussy
Kalia Road, Fort DeRussy, Waikiki

The U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii at Fort DeRussy is one of the best-kept secrets in Waikiki, according to museum sources.

The museum is housed in Battery Randolph, a massive reinforced concrete emplacement with roofs as much as 12-feet thick. The battery was built around 1911 to protect Hawaii from invading forces, and featured two 14-inch guns that could fire projectiles as far as 14 miles.

Today, Battery Randolph serves as a home for a museum that tells the military story in Hawaii, from the early Native Hawaiian warriors to Soldiers who fought in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of these special stories are featured in the Gallery of Heroes, which is set aside from the other exhibits. The Gallery of Heroes solemnly honors the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.

In total, the museum's 18 exhibits annually attract more than 100,000 visitors from around the world. Audio tours are available in English and Japanese.

The museum is located beachfront adjacent to the Hale Koa Hotel and park. The surrounding grounds includes shade trees and open grassy areas. Tables and benches are abundant throughout the park for relaxing or for picnics.

Admission to the museum is free, but donations are appreciated.

Honolulu Museum of Art
900 S. Beretania St., Honolulu

This world-class art museum presents international-caliber special exhibitions and features a collection that includes works by Hokusai, van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso and Warhol, as well as traditional Asian and Hawaiian art. The museum also offers a summer special for members of the military and family members.

For the third year, the Honolulu Museum of Art is participating in the national Blue Star Museums collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense.

As part of the program, the museum is one of six Hawaii institutions (one of three on the island of Oahu), and 1,500 museums nationwide, to offer free admission to all active-duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The Honolulu Museum of Art was formerly known as the Honolulu Academy of Art. In 2011, the Contemporary Museum gifted its assets and collection to the museum, and in 2012, the combined museum changed its name to the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Located in two of Honolulu's most beautiful buildings, the museum includes two cafés, gardens, and hosts various films and concerts.

Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu

Honolulu's Bishop Museum is Hawaii's largest museum dedicated to studying and preserving the history of Hawaii and the Pacific. Originally designed to house the extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts and royal family heirlooms of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a descendent of King Kamehameha I, the museum is now the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific.

The museum holds millions of artifacts, documents and photos about Hawaii and other Polynesian cultures.

The newly renovated Hawaiian Hall offers an immersion into Native Hawaiian culture and history by showcasing a variety of important artifacts. The planetarium shows how voyagers navigated the Pacific using the stars. The Science Adventure Center demonstrates Hawaii's unique natural environment through a variety of interactive exhibits.

Iolani Palace
364 S. King St., Honolulu

Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaii's monarchy, is a marvel of opulence, innovation and political intrigue. Meticulously restored to its former grandeur, this National Historic Landmark in downtown Honolulu tells of a time when King Kalakaua, who built it in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani, walked its celebrated halls.

Iolani Palace participates in the Blue Star Museums program and offers free admission to active duty military personnel and their families Memorial Day-Labor Day.

The Royal Hawaiian Band presents free concerts on the palace grounds most Fridays, weather permitting, from noon to 1 p.m.

Iolani Palace offers guided and self-led tours approximately 60 minutes in length. Reservations are required.

Hawaii Blue Star Museums 2012

Six Hawaii museums are participating in the 2012 program:
•Hawaii State Art Museum, Honolulu;
•Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu;
•Iolani Palace, Honolulu;
•Lyman Museum and Mission House, Hilo, Hawaii;
•Laupahoehoe Train Museum, Laupahoehoe, Hawaii; and
•Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum, Puunene, Maui.