Museums Share Living History of Okanagan

Museums Share Living History of Okanagan

If you think museums are only about old things and telling old stories, Maria Garcia, the Museum Services Associate at Kelowna Museums will change your mind and hopefully inspire you to join the team of volunteers that support the organizations’ mission and vision.

“Kelowna Museums Society started in 1936 as a community interest and in 1951 as a registered not-for-profit society,” explains Maria. “It provides the region’s residents and visitors with on-going interpretation of the Okanagan and beyond. We are committed to serve the community as history is not just something static that happened in the past, it’s alive and moving forward. Everybody living in the Okanagan right now is part of that history.”

The Kelowna Museums Society’s mission is to provides the public with educational exhibitions and programs that foster personal participation, stimulate curiosity, and engage the senses with the cultures, histories, and possibilities of the Okanagan region and includes five distinct identities in three locations: the Okanagan Heritage Museum, Okanagan Military Museum, The Okanagan Wine & Orchard Museum, the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame and the Laurel Packinghouse. There is always something new to discover and Kelowna Museums works with Indigenous partners to share learning experiences like na̓ʔk̓ʷulamən (nakulamen, what we do) and nsyilxcen for Everyone.

Maria is originally from Mexico where she used to be a broadcaster (presenter, writer and researcher) for a public radio station and also worked in public and cultural institutions for over 20 years. She has a Master’s Degree in Art History, focused on film and is an avid fan of horror movies, especially The Exorcist. She and her husband moved from Edmonton to Kelowna in July 2020 in the midst of the pandemic and she was thrilled to see the posting for her job with the Okanagan Heritage Museum the week after she got here.

 “It was a natural for me, so I applied and got the job,” she remembers happily. Part of Maria’s work includes coordinating the volunteers that help at Kelowna Museums. “They support by working at the front desk and at special events. Our organization is not that big and so the impact they make is huge – especially with the visitors!”

“Working the front desk implies that you are the face of the organization and every time a visitor comes through the door, you are the person welcoming them, giving them information about our exhibits, taking donations and inviting them to our public programs,” adds Maria. “Also, you’re in touch with the rest of the people in the organization. During special events, you assist the education team with all the activities they create for our visitors.”

Volunteers can apply on the Volunteer Connector, through the Museum’s website and also in person. Maria has both medium and long-term positions available and likes to have a regular schedule for people.

“Volunteers have to like interacting with people and commit to a certain shift as much as possible, but our program is also flexible, depending on their schedule,” explains Maria. “Many volunteers are students who also have paid work and so we need to be flexible.”


Volunteers get to know how the museum works on a daily basis and to learn about the Okanagan history and other programs,” says Maria, sharing on the benefits of volunteering. “They can develop or reinforce their communication, organization and team work skills, and they get discounts in our gift shop and the public programs, plus they get invitations to special events.”

“Some of our volunteers are very involved in our journey towards truth and reconciliation and have taken nsyilxcen courses as well as cultural competency workshops,” shares Maria, explaining that she loves to see those who have been engaged with the museum in the past come back to volunteer. “These volunteers are very valued and appreciated specially during Truth and Reconciliation Day, when the museum holds activities and welcomes hundreds of visitors.”

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