BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Candy’s vision continues

Ron Candy promoted local heritage and the need for a new Greater Vernon Museum

Ron Candy loved nothing more than playing tour guide.

Leaving the organized exhibits behind in the main gallery of the Greater Vernon Museum, Candy would crack open the storage rooms overflowing to the brim.

One-of-a-kind treasures would cling precariously to shelves while towers of boxes would reach for the ceiling. Inevitably, he would dig deep and pull out artifacts that rarely saw the light of day. Among his favourites were the gigantic boots belonging to Leone Caetani, an Italian duke and father of artist Sveva Caetani.

With exhibit space at a premium, Candy was often asked why the museum continued to accept artifacts if they were going to be relegated to storage.

“History doesn’t stop so collecting doesn’t stop,” he said in 2011.

And Candy wanted to ensure the local museum remained relevant, not only providing a look into the past but ensuring residents had the information they needed to make decisions for the future.

“We can give people a healthy perspective they can translate into their own lives,” he said.

And there is a relevancy to museums, whether it’s the move towards reconciliation with our indigenous people or historical decisions that have led to Greater Vernon’s always contentious water system.

It was announced Monday that Candy is no longer curator and executive director after almost 24 years.

His departure comes at the same time that the  museum and community are at a crossroads.

Either a new facility that includes sufficient exhibit and program space, as well as critically important climate controls, proceeds, or the organization will continue to stagnate.

The obvious answer is construction of a purpose-built museum, but the challenge has been keeping it on the radar. Elected officials and bureaucrats either have other pet projects or they are afraid to stick their necks out because taxpayers may chop them off.

Always cognizant of the bottom line and the financial burdens facing residents, Candy tried to make the case for a new museum, particularly as demand for programs among youth and adults often meant the existing building was jammed to the rafters.

“As a community grows and more people move in, the amenities have to grow,” he said in 2011.

It’s also a proven fact that culture is a significant draw for tourists or people looking for a new town to call home.

“We have a profound effect on the community’s economy but we need space to do it,” he said.

Candy deserves significant praise for making our heritage approachable through satellite displays throughout the region or allowing children to physically touch artifacts and speculate on their uses.

And while he is no longer directly involved, Candy has left all of us — politicians and residents — with a challenge.

Do we continue to allow our past to languish and collect dust in back rooms or do we embrace his vision of celebrating history and using it as a template for future generations? We need to decide.