Written for Kelowna Guide Magazine by – Kelowna Museum Society
There are four museums operated by the Kelowna Museums Society (KMS)—a not-for-profit organization that promotes interest and awareness of the natural, cultural, agricultural, athletic, and military heritages of the Okanagan region. Located downtown in the heart of Kelowna’s Cultural District, the Kelowna Museums offer a wide selection of exhibitions, educational and public programs, and special events.
KMS is composed of five museums: Okanagan Heritage Museum, Okanagan Wine and Orchard Museum, Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame Museum, and Okanagan Military Museum.
You can visit three of the museums in a walking tour starting at the corner of Ellis Street and Queensway Avenue where you will find the Okanagan Heritage Museum. This museum documents the cultural and natural histories of the Okanagan, from the First Nation inhabitants to the earliest European settlers and onwards.
Next, head over to the Okanagan Military Museum, located inside the Memorial Arena on the corner of Ellis Street and Doyle Avenue. Here you’ll find the preservation and awareness of Okanagan military heritage and a significant collection of small arms, uniforms, insignia, and equipment, including artefacts from every major war of the twentieth century. This museum is dedicated to the Okanagan men and women who have served Canada.
Finish your walking tour at the historic Laurel Packinghouse, Kelowna’s first designated heritage building, located on the corner of Ellis Street and Cawston Avenue. The Laurel Packinghouse was built of brick made from locally sourced clay in 1917-18. In its heyday, the Laurel was one of many fruit packinghouses that packed and shipped Okanagan tree fruits to markets across Canada and the world. It’s now home to both the Okanagan Wine and Orchard Museum.
The Okanagan Wine and Orchard Museum explores the Okanagan’s roots in the orchard and wine industries through engaging exhibits on irrigation, picking, packing, and more. Unearth the agricultural treasures that make our region unique. Vibrantly painted fruit crates, live bee hives and cherry pitting equipment are yours to explore. Discover how the booming Okanagan wine industry has diversified our landscape with stories of wine makers, entrepreneurs and local wineries. Uncover the rich history of two of our world-class industries along with the dedication involved in their success.
The Kelowna Museums’ newest satellite location is the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame Museum. This exhibit, located in the Capri Centre Mall (near the Canada Passport Office), features memorabilia from the Okanagan’s sports champions that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Come see the history behind some of the Okanagan’s very own Olympic athletes, world champions, and local heroes.
There is so much to learn about Kelowna and the Okanagan and about the people and events that have shaped our community. The Kelowna Museums Society encourages you to explore and discover something new. Admission to all museums is by donation, which supports education programming and exhibit development.