Museums can conjure up images of dusty, old relics of days long forgotten. But for Ron Candy, they are an avenue to contemplate very contemporary issues facing our community.
“I want to make sense of history but I also want to inspire people with that information,” said the Greater Vernon Museum curator who’s been recognized for distinguished service by the B.C. Museums Association.
“We can give people a healthy perspective they can translate into their own lives.”
As an example, the museum will host an exhibit in 2012 on water — both historically but the limited resource facing the Okanagan now.
“I want the museum to be relevant,” he said.
A significant achievement for Candy is the annual heritage fair, which encourages local students to put together a historic project.
“We ask what turns them on and to tell us about it,” he said.
“They do their own research and they find out they’re capable of expressing themselves. They have something relevant to say. It’s a wonderful confidence-builder.”
Candy may associate with the youth because his own interest in history began as a child visiting the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
“The attraction is to see the objects and get up close to them,” he said.
As a young adult in 1974, he considered a career in architecture and took a job on the restoration crew at Barkerville, the former gold rush town in B.C.’s Cariboo. It changed his life forever.
“I thought I’d work one or two seasons there and then go back to school and pursue architecture but I never went back,” he said.
Based out of Barkerville, Candy started travelling the province and assisting other communities with conservation of heritage items. But the need for a change of climate led him to the Okanagan and he began duties at the Greater Vernon Museum in 1992.
“The last 19 years have been all about learning about the history of the North Okanagan which is amazing. When I learned how the area came together, it’s really unique, and then I found out about individuals like Allan Brooks and Price Ellison,” he said.
“I could spend the rest of my days and not run out of things to learn here. The army camp itself is just one chapter.”
Candy, along with the museum board, is currently trying to convince local politicians and residents that a new facility is required to replace the current structure which is cramped and does not have climate or light controls to protect artifacts.
“As a community grows and more people move in, the amenities have to grow,” he said.
“Your objective is to serve the community. History doesn’t stop so collecting (artifacts) doesn’t stop.”
Candy also believes a museum helps draw new residents and businesses to Vernon, as well as tourists who are culturally motivated.
“We have a profound effect on the community’s economy but we need space to do it,” he said.
Candy insists that his passion for history is evolving and expanding all of the time.
“In the process of inspiring others, I inspire myself. It’s a job that gives and gives,” he said.
“When you see people inspired, you can’t help but feel encouraged yourself. The work and the result of the work is a source of fuel.”