Modern technology is giving Kelowna’s rich history a collective voice.
With 8,400 likes garnered since its launch, the Old Kelowna Facebook page celebrated its one-year anniversary last Friday.
It all started when Okanagan College English professor Shona Harrison, a fourth-generation Kelowna resident, posted a photo on her personal page of her grandmother, Dorothy Bubb and her brother Charlie, in front of the Train Station in the 1920s.
Today, that building has been restored and operates as a popular pub.
The overwhelming response from friends intrigued Harrison about the community’s appetite for cherishing the past.
“I saw an opportunity to share stories of our past and to make accessible the hidden narratives of Kelowna’s history: Its residents, families, businesses, buildings and culture,” said Harrison.
“Pictures tell a remarkable story. Since I launched the page last spring, it has grown exponentially, quite unexpectedly.
“The number of photo submissions individuals continue to send to the page for sharing is quite remarkable.”
Applying her arts education, Harrison credits her scholarly background in medieval manuscript studies for her expertise in cataloguing and archives, skills that were instrumental in launching the social media page.
An excavator of photos, she knew how and where to look when beginning the quest of sharing the city’s history through photos.
“The Old Kelowna page has done a great job of engaging the community and has helped spark a renewed interest in the preservation of our local heritage,” said Amanda Snyder, Kelowna Museums curatorial manager.
“The community support and participation the site has received reflects the keen interest Kelowna residents have in protecting our shared heritage.”
A director on the board for the Central Okanagan Heritage Society as well as a committee member for the City of Kelowna’s Heritage Grants Program, Harrison’s commitment to preserving the city’s old structures is nothing new.
She hopes the social media conversation generated will shine a spotlight on the importance of maintaining the buildings that are integral to how Kelowna got to be where it is today.
“Kelowna is in transition, and while growth brings many benefits, it also evokes a certain anxiety and lament about the past, especially preserving it for generations to come,” commented Harrison.
“I hope that the page can inspire the preservation, and repurposing of old buildings for a harmonious marriage of old and new.”
The Old Kelowna Facebook page has received likes from individuals in more than 22 countries. Its popular momentum continues, and it received the Special Projects in Heritage Preservation 2015 award from the City of Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Heritage Society. Most recently, it was nominated for the Best of Kelowna award, results will be known at the end of May.