After being closed since mid-March, the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives is opening, by appointment, June 11. (GVMA photo)

After being closed since mid-March, the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives is opening, by appointment, June 11. (GVMA photo)

North Okanagan museum dusts off for opening

Three-month COVID-19 closure comes to an end

Following three months of collecting dust, another local attraction is ready to open its doors.

The Greater Vernon Museum and Archives is excited to begin the gradual process of welcoming members of the public back on site, starting with registered visits. Like much of the province, the GVMA has been closed to the public since mid-March. This resulted in reductions of work duties for all employees, including management.

“Despite this reduction we’ve continued to serve the community through a number of new initiatives,” executive director Steve Fleck said.

While the museum has been closed to the public, curator Cuyler Page has been working on a new permanent exhibit. Page conceived of and has begun construction a new Children’s Museum in the natural history area of the museum, building displays to explore the wonder of the natural world.

“Truly, it will be one of a kind,” said Fleck. “We’re so thankful for the financial support of the Friends of the Museum Society for their donation in 2017, which is being used to purchase building materials.”

Since the museum closure, the GVMA programming team has taken the lead role in the Regional District of the North Okanagan’s Isolate and Create project. Gwyneth Evans, Barbara Bell, and Laisha Rosnau created and manage www.okcreateonline.com. The website hosts and highlights arts and culture content and opportunities shared by other project partners in the North Okanagan.

READ MORE: North Okanagan gets creative with pet pics, foodie fun and more

“It helped us envision – in short order – new ways to provide content and material by connecting with visitors virtually,” program coordinator Rosnau said. “This experience has already had an impact on how we think about curating historical content and engaging people across through a variety of media.”

In addition to increased virtual content and online engagement, opportunities for public onsite visits will be gradually reintroduced.

“The first step is to open the archives for research appointments,” explains Fleck. “We know there are people in our community who depend on being able to access the wealth of historical information available through our archives.”

Beginning Thursday, June 11, the archives will be open by appointment by booking through mail@vernonmuseum.ca. For the month of June, the time slots available will be 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday mornings and 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoons. Appointments are first come, first serve, and will be, for the time being, limited to one visitor (or household) at a time.

“As staff return to some shifts in the building, we’ll be working together to ensure we can then open the museum to the public in some capacity as safely as possible,” said Fleck.

Once health and safety measures are in place, the GVMA will shift its previous drop-in visitation to having visitors make advanced bookings to visit the museum over the summer, or limiting the amount of visitors in the museum at any one time.

“Our hope is that these planned visits by individuals and families, in much smaller groups than our usual summer tours, will foster connection and discussion between staff and members of the public,” Fleck said.

A launch of the new GVMA website will coincide with the reopening so public be able to find out the hours, days, and public guidelines for the gradual re-opening process.

“We’re thankful to everyone that continues to engage our team, both online and as we move toward gradual reopening,” said Fleck. “You make us better.”

For more information on the hours and guidelines for access to the GVMA, visit www.vernonmuseum.com or mail@vernonmuseum.ca.

READ MORE: Okanagan film society screening for scholarships


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