It’s about time

BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Greater Vernon Museum bursting at the seams, needs more space

Ron Candy could soon be featured in the next episode of Hoarders.

Walk around the Greater Vernon Museum, and the curator’s passion for collecting overflows. Goat-trail paths are carved in between artifacts while storage has burst through the doors and into exhibit space. Eras spill over into each other as they compete for space.

And the situation is about to get even more  exaggerated as plans are underway for a giant case — nine-by-nine at the base and 14-feet high — to contain a century-old clock.

“It’s going to take up a lot of real estate,” said Candy of the structure.

One may question why Candy is bothering with the clock when he is already struggling to handle what he has. But to be effective, a museum must be representative of a community’s broad-based past and that means the collection must always be evolving. If a museum doesn’t keep up with the times, it soon becomes irrelevant.

“We don’t have a lot of square footage but this artifact is important enough that it deserves space. We will have to rework our displays to fit the clock in,” said Candy.

The museum was handed the 1912 clock after the city proceeded with much-needed upgrades to the clock tower on 32nd Avenue. It’s rather ironic that the city is contributing to overcrowding at the museum at the same time that it has ignored the agency’s space issues for years.

In fact, the only recent discussion at city hall about assisting the museum was a possible small expansion to the rear of the building.

But while such a move would be expedient and get the city off the hook, it would do absolutely nothing to enhance the long-term viability of the museum or the experience of its visitors.

What is realistically required is a structure that is double the current 13,000-square-feet with climate and light controls to protect artifacts, sufficient storage and room for education programs as well as travelling and permanent displays.

Obviously this would cost a few million dollars, but consider the benefits of such an investment. Not only would there be an expanded draw for tourists, but such an amenity would provide new residents and businesses with another reason to move here. Our youth would also have increased opportunities to learn about the area.

It’s been suggested the museum could possibly be part of the a proposed Vernon Public Art Gallery on the former flower shop site on 31st Avenue, but it’s highly doubtful there is enough room there to meet the needs of both organizations.

Instead of just looking for the easy way out, why isn’t the city pursuing a joint museum/gallery complex on publicly owned Coldstream Hotel property?

With virtually an entire block available, other assets, like a tourism centre or farmers market, could be considered, bolstering downtown’s revitalization efforts.

The vision could also incorporate that aging time piece that Candy is currently trying to shoehorn in between military uniforms and pioneer memorabilia.

“The clock tower could be a focal point for a new building,” he said.

Ultimately, the city is in a rut. All it can apparently offer are tired, old plans for minor expansions while worsening conditions at the museum by discarding items it no longer wants.

Time is running out for the city to show some leadership.

– Richard Rolke is a city reporter at The Morning Star. richard@vernonmorningstar.com