Born in Alaska bush territory and raised on a former Imperial Japanese Navy air base in Taiwan, author and historian William G. “Burl” Burlingame has a keen sense of Pacific history. While still a student in Hawaii schools, he worked with environmental and preservation associations, both as an activist and journalist. Burlingame focused on the social interplay between popular culture and the built environment, historical and otherwise.
Burlingame majored in both Journalism and Anthropology at the University of Missouri, and began to couple the discipline of scientific observation and the creativity of mass communications with the goal of popularizing historic interpretation.
“During the 1970s, there was a great groundswell in preserving history, but little work was done to preserve the cultural landscape that created that history,” said Burlingame. “The real issue in historic preservation is recognizing that it engenders a sense of place. Communities aren’t defined solely by architecture, although architecture is the most visible and creates a sense of continuity and citizenship. Historic preservation needs to be seen as a development tool, and a vital part of community master planning.”
Within a year of graduating from college, Burlingame had written, photographed and designed “Da Kine Sound: Conversations With People Who Create Hawaiian Music,” the first work to deal with Hawaiian music as a uniquely ethnic art form. Nearly 20 years later, the book is still in print.
Burlingame worked as chief photographer for the Sun Press Newspapers, media advisor for Hawaii Pacific College and editor of Hawaii Coastal Zone News before joining theHonolulu Star-Bulletin in 1979. As a reporter specializing in cultural, historic and preservation issues, Burlingame has won several awards.
“At the same time, I recognized a need to create an organization that combines the latest in information theory, educational issues, emerging technology and historic preservation,” said Burlingame. In 1989, Burlingame founded Pacific Monograph, a company specializing in historic interpretation.
“History needs to be recognized as a force that shapes our lives and that of our children,” said Burlingame. “It is the interpretation of history that gives it form, and it takes varied skills — not just technical skills, but skills in thinking in new ways, of using new technologies and of tapping community potentials. It takes a kind of evangelism.”
Since that time, Burlingame’s ground-breaking book “Advance Force/Pearl Harbor” made nationwide news as it rewrote the history of that famous incident; he edited and published “Fortress Alcatraz” by John A. Martini, which deals with military preservation in the Bay Area; and coauthored “Coverama” with DeSoto Brown, detailing the rise and fall of a social phenomenon.
In 1993, “Advance Force” was voted one of the top five nonfiction books from Hawaii during the last decade by independent judges from theHawaii Book Publishers Association. In 1995, “Coverama” was named one of “Hawaii’s Best Books” by HBPA.
Burlingame also served as Director of Collections and Interpretation for the Pacific Aerospace Museum, is a docent at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, created a use plan for the National Park Service in the closure of the Presidio in San Francisco, and has designed or built exhibits for the Pacific Aerospace Museum, the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii, the Bowfin Museum, the Arizona Memorial, the Maritime Center and the defunct Hawaii Museum Center. He also served as chairman of the Barbers Point Museum Task Force. He is the author of the Task Force report “Hawaii Museum Center.”
In addition to the above, Burlingame is an Eagle Scout, restores antique military vehicles, was a member of the board of Seagull Schools, has won national awards for scale-model building, and plays in blues bands. He lives in Kailua with wife Mary, an editor, daughters Amelia and Katie, two cats and two sleepy dogs that represent at least a dozen different breeds.