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BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Greater Vernon Museum open house an opportunity not be missed

Looking for something to do this Saturday? How about heading over to the Greater Vernon Museum.

A public open house runs from 1 to 4 p.m. and while the goal is to dispel the myth that history is boring, it’s also an opportune time to show residents the sad state of an agency charged with preserving our heritage for future generations.

I have belaboured the point before, but seeing is actually believing. Conditions are cramped, to the point that the exhibit area is cluttered and narrow walking paths barely provide enough room for two people to pass each other.

And the situation is only getting worse as restoration of the century-old post office clock takes up a large chunk of real estate.

The collection — because history never stops — keeps growing. Storage is absolutely overflowing, to the point that some items are in  less than ideal surroundings. The lack of climate and light controls does little for the long-term integrity of artifacts.

Many  one-of-a-kind treasures never see the light of day, and that is disheartening given some  of the dazzling items that should be on permanent display such as the personal effects of artist Sveva Caetani and her family.

There is limited room for public education programs, which are increasingly in demand, and  people can often be shoulder-to-shoulder as they spread out photos and documents from the archives.

Forget about large exhibits stopping at the museum as there isn’t the room and national requirements demand climate control.

Now you may still insist you’re not into heritage and there’s no reason for you to drop by the museum. But remember that if you live in Vernon, Coldstream or the BX, you are a taxpayer.

Through your hard-earned cash, the Regional District of North Okanagan provides the museum with annual operating grant of $180,034. On top of this, there is $89,829 for rent, insurance and maintenance. All rolled together, that’s $269,863 and you should be interested in how it is invested.

Now all residents should make plans for the open house, but there’s a specific group that should be walking through the door and that’s the 16 politicians from Greater Vernon.

After all, they are the ones who raise their hands for operating funds, and they even have to appoint individuals to the museum board under bylaw. But more importantly, it is this select group that will ultimately decide if the current challenges are to be addressed and if a new purpose-built museum is going to move ahead.

Some of our elected officials are extremely familiar with the museum, while it’s likely some have never been there before. The open house is not only a chance for them to see the vast array of artifacts and exhibits, but you can guarantee curator Ron Candy will be willing to take them on a private tour behind the scenes of the storage areas.

If residents and politicians alike head into the open house with an open mind, they will hopefully understand the need to double the size of the 13,000-square-foot facility.

Obviously there will be a price tag involved — possibly as high as $5 million — but given the cultural, social and economic benefits that museums provide, it shouldn’t be considered a luxury any more than paved roads, sewer lines or sports fields.

richard@vernonmorningstar.com