If your idea of a local museum includes grandmas dragging their youngsters through stodgy collections of ancient knickknacks, the Osoyoos & District Museum wants to change your thinking.

That was apparent with a visit to Osoyoos Council this morning from Mat Hassen, the museum society’s president, and Kara Burton, it’s executive director and curator, to talk about the society’s plans to relocate to Main Street in 2020.

Instead, visitors should expect an experience rooted in stories and voices, complemented by those knickknacks (what museums call artifacts) and made pretty cool by the use of multimedia technology.

“When you walk into the new museum, you’ll have a sense of walking into Osoyoos,” promised Mr. Hassen, speaking about the society’s plans for the new Main Street building, currently home to Osoyoos Home Building Centre.

The facility, he explained, will pay homage to the Osoyoos lifestyle and environment — “within our fertile valley, our warm lake, the crossroads, the proximity to border and all of those things.

“It will be of value to both visitors and residents alike. No matter how you came to it, you would find it meaningful and fulfilling.”

Shrewdly, the society is steering clear of investing in technology hard-wired within the building and taking advantage of the ubiquitous smartphone to deliver an enriched multimedia presentation.

“We recognize that most people carry the technology,” Mr. Hassen explained. “We are going to be designing features in the museum so that people can tap in to content in the museum with their own technology or borrow a tablet from the desk and be able to do that.

“It’s easy for us to stay on the upside of supporting technology; it’s much more difficult for us to provide it.”

That technology will allow the museum to reach beyond its four walls — even before the new building is finished.

This summer, the society hopes to deliver a community activity via smartphones called GO — short for Gather Osoyoos.

The activity, said Ms. Burton, is an interactive game around town that incorporates interpretive signs and other key features in Osoyoos.

“It would be the first of its kind in the South Okanagan,” she said, adding that building the application is grant-dependent.

While the museum’s move from its existing Park Place location to Main Street is still several years away, the society is doing what it can now to adequately fund the transition.

“The building will be about $2 million if we do everything,” said Mr. Hassen.  “We said it at the beginning: the museum will look after the cost of its development if the (Town of Osoyoos) will buy the building. That commitment holds.

“We will endeavour to raise the money necessary but there will be no expectation at any time that further taxpayer dollars are involved.”

Instead, the society plans to rely on its efforts to intrigue and enthral the local population and build a sense of “Our Museum.”

“In a word we need community support,” said Mr. Hassen. “We need people in the community to help us. Many hands will make light work.”

That help, he added, could come in the form of just sharing the excitement of a new facility and perhaps donating a few dollars. Or it could be more substantial: “volunteering time and skills and expertise at the museum.

“How ever little people can contribute, it will be valued and help,” Mr. Hassen said.

Interest in the Osoyoos story is growing.

“Our visitor numbers were the highest we’ve seen in the past 10 years,” Ms. Burton shared as part of an annual report she delivered to Council. “Our membership numbers are also up.”

It’s a big step forward for a society that took a dagger through the heart in 2015 with a delayed occupation of its new home. Mr. Hassen spoke to that in passing.

“I will say that when we were delayed in getting possession of the building, it knocked us off the rails a little bit,” he said. “But that was then and this is now. We’re back on track and I can assure the community that the plan is well and in-place.”




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