It’s old news that the Greater Vernon Museum is cramped and inadequate to meet the needs of a vibrant community. One may ask then, why nothing has been done to rectify the situation?
It would be easy to blame Greater Vernon politicians as they have shown very little interest in moving ahead with a new facility.
But it’s becoming apparent that at least some of the inaction also falls at the feet of the museum’s board of directors.
They sporadically appear before city council and the regional district and present updates on their activities, with the request for a new building generally mentioned only in passing.
With the exception of Ron Candy, the paid curator, the museum doesn’t have a public face. Yes, the president and directors are volunteers, but why aren’t they out visibly stating their case to officials and the public?
On the flip side is the Vernon Public Art Gallery, which, like the museum, is also facing an extreme space crunch.
But the gallery’s board, along with staff, have been out hustling.
It’s paid off because there’s conditional agreement from the city for a site and the provincial government has provided a $50,000 grant for a business plan.
Some museum enthusiasts will ask why the gallery is garnering all of the attention and the answer is simple: they are making some noise.
But if they still need some convincing, let’s go back to the 1990s when a handful of individuals began promoting the concept of a performing arts centre.
Many of the politicians of the day were hostile towards the idea and adamant that public support was weak.
However, the proponents, and particularly the tenacious Marie Fleming, were undeterred. They met with groups and residents one-on-one, and the proposal began to gain legs.
Ultimately, civic leaders couldn’t avoid the matter any longer and a referendum was held in 1999.
Even on election night, though, some regional district directors were predicting a spectacular failure because they didn’t believe the public would vote with their wallets.
Of course they were proven wrong and the Vernon Performing Arts Centre has become one of our greatest community assets.
Headlines about a proposed sports complex or other recreational facilities also drive some museum volunteers crazy. They wonder why athletic endeavours are getting political endorsement when culture is being left behind.
But once again, it’s a case of rattling some chains.
If the Greater Vernon Museum is to move ahead, it has to learn from history, and whether it’s the hospital tower or highway upgrades in Oyama, there are numerous examples of the squeaky wheel getting the grease.
Being proactive isn’t going to be easy.
It will mean presentations to service clubs and businesses and explaining the social and economic importance of the museum, and how the present facility restricts potential.
Residents will have to be informed of how the community’s heritage is at risk because of inadequate conditions.
It will take meetings with politicians individually and collectively, and sometimes badgering does far more than the polite approach.
I know some of the museum board members and they wouldn’t be involved if they didn’t have a love for our heritage.
But that passion now needs to shine for the whole world to see.
—Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star