Stimulate your mind at Kelowna’s museums

Take a break from the beach and visit a museum or two

by Sandra Albers
The Okanagan Heritage Museum has an eclectic range of exhibits inside.
The Okanagan Heritage Museum has an eclectic range of exhibits inside. — Sandra Albers photo

If you visit Kelowna, you'll likely spend a lot of time on the beach or in the waters of Okanagan Lake. That's only natural. But if you need a break from all that serious suntanning and vegging out, if you feel a need to stimulate your mind, there are several options.

You could, for example, visit the Okanagan Heritage Museum, then pop in to the Okanagan Military Museum just around the corner. Both are found in Kelowna's downtown cultural district.

Kelowna's natural and human history

The Okanagan Heritage Museum features both human history and natural history.

When I visited the museum last summer, I enjoyed the displays showing the distinct areas of Kelowna (for example, The Mission). I also saw a re-creation of an 1860s trading post, a life-size model of an Interior Salish pithouse, an exhibit on the history of radio in Kelowna, and a model of the city's famous floating bridge.

There is a small but intriguing exhibit from old Kelowna's Chinatown in a nook upstairs. Also of interest is the Hildebrand collection of African artifacts acquired by the museum in 1982.

And I chuckled at the display entitled I Think It's Down There Somewhere . . ., a collection of artifacts from the basement of a long-time Kelowna family. Kind of reminded me of my basement!

The natural history area of the museum is devoted to animals and birds native to the Okanagan Valley. Children will especially enjoy the Things That Go Bump in the Night display, which features nocturnal creatures and the night sky.

I learned that the first permanent year-round settlement in the Okanagan Valley was the Oblate Mission of Father Charles Pandosy. In 1904, Kelowna's population was 1,000; it hit the 100,000 mark in 2002.

The Okanagan Heritage Musuem, 470 Queensway Avenue, is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is by donation.

The Okanagan's military heritage

The Okanagan Military Museum is a more specialized venue, focusing on preserving Okanagan military history.

Its weapons display is especially impressive and is considered one of Canada's best firearms collections.

This museum houses artifacts from the Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War and even the Cold War. It also features displays on the B.C. Police force, the militia in the Okanagan, and the role of women in the military.

You can also learn about Canadians who have won the Victoria Cross, imagine what Service Life Afloat and Service Life Ashore might have been like in exhibits of those titles, and view some historical video footage.

The museum also houses a reference library that is open to researchers and geneologists by appointment. Special events include a Remembrance Day open house and a Canada Day book sale.

The Okanagan Military Museum, 1424 Ellis Street, is open June to September, Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and October through May Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is by donation.

Both museums (along with an orchard museum, a wine museum and a sports hall of fame) are operated by the Kelowna Museums Society.


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