Okanagan Historical Society needs new blood to avoid becoming history itself

Youth last hope for history

The Vernon Branch of the Okanagan Historical Society may become history itself.

The venerable historian group, founded in 1925, is at risk of folding. The threat? An aging membership.

It’s hoping to attract younger members so the society can stay alive.

Ken Mather edits the society’s yearly book, and says it needs to “join the 21st century” to keep the society alive.

“I know, for me, it's been a bit of a personal thing. We've been in the Vernon area for so long, and I would hate to see the branch die,” Mather said.

“And I don't think it needs to. I think we just need to kind of think outside the box a bit.”

Interest in local history isn’t the problem, says Mather, but rather the way the Historical Society delivers its information. He says the younger generation prefers digital information, and the society is considering starting a podcast, or YouTube videos.

It’s holding a meeting Sunday, 2 p.m., at the Mackie House in Coldstream.

Mathers says the society hopes to get some new interest in local history.

“If we don't attract younger, newer members, yeah, we could fold as an organization.”

On top of aging members, the society struggled during the pandemic as it was unable to hold meetings, and then two of its executives passed away, leaving it in disarray.

The Okanagan Historical Society was founded in Vernon and began expanding to other cities in 1948.

It has seven branches – and Mather says Vernon is not the only place struggling with aging membership.

But, he has high hopes for the Vernon chapter because of residents' general interest in history.

The group sells its annual historical book for $25, which gets the buyer a year-long membership with the society.

Without the book, membership costs $10.

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