Kids and families in Penticton will soon get access to some hands-on learning tools in Penticton’s museum in a permanent exhibit that its curator says is unique within the Okanagan.
The Hands-on Heritage Lab opens to the public at a reception from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday. For adults, the reception will include wine and cheese.
Dennis Oomen, manager/curator of the Penticton Museum and Archives said the Hands-on Heritage Lab was made possible with a grant first from the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan-Similkameen and second from the Canada 150 heritage grants.
“The idea behind the Hands-on Heritage Lab is to just give parents and kids the opportunity to come together and do things together and do hands-on experiential sort of learning through doing things,” Oomen said.
“Whether it’s putting a building together to withstand an earthquake on our earthquake table; finding a fire using our firefinder, here, which is an actual British Columbia forestry service firefinder; looking at natural history specimens through a microscope, building a bridge, building an arch, listening to bird song, identifying birds.
“All these sorts of things we have available here.”
One item in the hands-on area has actually been in there for a while — the museum’s interactive sandbox, which works with a projector and scanner that acts as a real-time topographic map.
The permanent exhibit’s Thursday opening will be timed alongside the opening of The Social Life of Water, a new temporary exhibit from Kelowna’s museum that explores water issues in the Okanagan.
“It’s a travelling exhibit they put together about two years ago,” Oomen said. “Prior to us, the Vernon museum had it, and prior to that it was at the Kelowna museums. It’s an overview of the water history of the region and the history of water resources and how different communities and cultures view water.”
Oomen said that will come with a variety of perspectives, including agriculture and irrigation and the Indigenous perspective.
“Of course, coming together and bringing it all together is the idea of conservation of the resource,” Oomen said. “On the surface it looks like we have a lot of water in the Okanagan, but in actuality it’s quite a dry area, and there’s only so much we can draw from the lakes and the rivers and so forth until we start to draw down on the water in excess of what any surplus may be.”
For that reason, Oomen said it’s important to keep that aspect of the region in the public dialogue as the population grows.
For the Indigenous perspective, Oomen said the Kelowna Heritage Museum conducted extensive interviews with various Indigenous groups to get a sense of the impact of water on their culture and livelihood.
And for its stay in Penticton, the displays, largely images and words in a space in the museum, will be augmented with some local artifacts that the Penticton Museum and Archives have, including a dugout canoe.
“It’s a really, really impressive craft, when you consider that it was made from one cottonwood tree log and the amount of labour and work that went into building it, it must have been many, many days of work,” Oomen said.
“This one is actually from Chase. Chase is in Shuswap or Secwepemc territory.”