History of the Rapa Nui Journal

The Rapa Nui Journal has been described as the “premiere source for Easter Island events and scientific studies”. The journal covers the subjects of archaeology, anthropology, botany, cultural resource management, cultural and ethnic studies, ecology, geology, field reports, history, linguistics, musicology, and many other topics specifically related to Easter Island, but also including other Pacific islands. In addition, the journal provides book reviews and Pacific island news. The journal was published in 30 volumes from 1986 through 2016 by the Easter Island Foundation.

The Rapa Nui Journal began in 1986 when Georgia Lee was directing research projects on Easter Island sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley. This program provided paying volunteers whose donations supported individual projects. During these years, small groups came to Easter Island for a few weeks, left, and then another group arrived. This supplied labor for the project as well as financial support, and crews ranged in age from college age to retirees. Most volunteers fell in love with the island; some returned time and again, and many, after leaving, wrote back begging for news about the island, their friends on the island, the project, and in general, asking “What’s new in Hanga Roa?”

Georgia found herself writing far too many letters, trying to respond to all those who wrote. In those days, she only had one rusty typewriter; letters and notes from the island all were hand-written. So, she began a small newsletter which she copied and sent to former members of her crews. It was called “Rapa Nui Notes.” It contained bits of information about what was happening on the island and Georgia added news about research projects and stuck in “fillers” about new publications, etc. The first one was only 4 pages long! To her surprise, it was a great hit with her former participants.

Rapa Nui Notes grew steadily and attracted the attention of Alan Drake, who offered his skills in producing it; Alan’s help turned it into a professional looking publication (Winter 1987-88) of 8 pages. We began to receive papers by scholars and, as the quality of the contents increased, so did our subscriptions. Finally, we decided that we needed to upgrade and changed the name to Rapa Nui Journal. This was in Summer of 1988.  Grant McCall dubbed it “the premier source for Easter Island events and scientific studies.” Georgia and her partner, Frank Morin, then produced the journal together from 1991 through 2008. Georgia and Shawn McLaughlin jointly edited the journal from 2008-2009.

From 2010 through 2012, Thegn Ladefoged and Mara Mulrooney of the University of Auckland took over the joint editorship of the journal.

Mara Mulrooney was the Editor in Chief of the Rapa Nui Journal from 2013 through the final issue in 2016. Under her guidance, the journal grew to a 100 pages+ per issue, peer-reviewed, bi-annual publication. After the partnership with UH Press was in place to resume publication of the Rapa Nui Journal in 2019, Mara returned to her position as Editor.



From our President, David L. Rose:

The Easter Island Foundation is pleased to be welcomed into the family of publications of the University of Hawaii Press as they assume the publication of the Rapa Nui Journal. Rapa Nui Journal has a long history of supporting the publication and dissemination of Polynesian research starting with the hand-typed Rapa Nui Notes over 30 years ago. From that humble beginning, the Rapa Nui Journal became a strong, peer-reviewed voice of research about Rapa Nui and Polynesia. We look forward to a long and successful partnership with UH Press as we begin this next phase of the Rapa Nui Journal.


Through UH Press, content from the Rapa Nui Journal may now be read online at Project MUSE. Readers may also receive e-mail alerts of new RNJ content posted online. As part of the agreement, UH Press will offer the Foundation assistance with managing its member database, journal archives, marketing, subscriptions, warehousing and shipping. EIF memberships, RNJ subscriptions, and RNJ contributor guidelines may be found on the UH Press website. You may subscribe directly through UH Press via this link:

Subscribe to the Rapa Nui Journal



Please note that selected issues, as well as individual articles, are available in pdf format.  For access, visit the Tables of Contents page on the right sidebar.