A walk down memory lane

Stories about the lives of five families with deep roots in the South Okanagan are now on display at The Penticton Museum & Archives.

“You Are Here:  An exploration of lives, memories and archives,” allows visitors to learn more about the lives of the Leir, McLean,Smuin, Drossos and Cleland families, who played a part in making Penticton what it is today.

“The concept of archives is very dry,” said museum curator Peter Ord. “So we hope to create a visual exhibit that is more engaging than a glass case full of papers.”

It began in 2011 when the museum applied to the Archives Association of BC to become a fully institutional member.

When it received full membership in 2012, the decision was made to celebrate by putting together an exhibit about archives.

In the design they wanted to showcase not just what archives are but how they relate to local history.

“A real motivating factor was to make local people part of the exhibit, so they can have their own history as small or short as it is part of the museum,” said Ord.

"You are Here" was selected as the title because it is a commonly used phrase for people to locate themselves on a map and the museum wants people to know this is their museum and they can be represented here in archival form, he said.

The museum chose the five families because of their long history in the area.

The McLean family was selected because Kenny McLean was a rodeo star in the 1960s and 1970s and the Drossos family had the Three Gables Hotel.

The Leir and Cleland families contributed much to the community and three generations of the Smuin famiy worked the railways.

The centrepiece of each display is symbolic of locations where they tended to share stories, from the dining room table for the Cleland’s to the front porch for the McLean’s.

Surrounding those objects are background information, newspaper clippings, black and white photographs  and videos of family members.

For Marylin Barnay, whose grandfather, the Rev. John Cleland, came to the area as a minister in 1907, the exhibit holds special meaning.

It is a chance to look at the lives of her grandparents and parents, E. Hugh and Eva Cleland, who the Cleland Theatre is named for, and remember all they contributed to the community.

“My mother envisioned bringing the Okanagan Valley Music Festival to this whole valley, started the Okanagan Summer School of the Arts, as well as being superintendent of Sunday school in the 1950s when there were more than 400 children,” she said. “Together she and my dad were involved in establishing the Memorial Arena and the high school auditorium and gymnasium which enabled us to have community concerts.”

In tandem with the exhibit is the Local Lore Project, in which residents are invited to submit their own personal histories and photographs regarding their association with Penticton.

The items will be incorporated into the museum virtually through an online software program, HistoryPin.

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