iHeartRadio – This fall, the Kelowna Museums Society and the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club are collaborating to showcase a ‘fascinating’ new exhibition highlighting the history of Italians in the area.

The Italian-Canadian community has a long history in Kelowna. In the 140 years since Giovanni Casorzo and Carlo Guaschetti arrived, Italians have contributed to shaping agriculture, industry, business and culture in the Okanagan. Their legacy remains an integral part of the region’s past, while new generations continue to enrich Kelowna today.

The exhibit is called La Nostra Famiglia Italiana: Our Legacy in Kelowna. La Nostra Famiglia Italiana translates as Our Italian Family.

Co-created by the Kelowna Museums Society and the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club, the exhibition will lead visitors through four key eras of Italian immigration to the region. Within each era, artifacts, archival photographs, personal stories and multimedia elements provide examples of how the Italian community has contributed to the Okanagan. A kitchen table in the centre of the gallery connects the eras through Italian food traditions and symbolizes bringing people together.

Curatorial Manager of the Kelowna Museums Society, Amanda Snyder, says the exhibition has even positively surprised museum staff:

“We’ve had such fun working with the Italian Club to co-create this exhibition! Museum staff have learned so much about the local Italian community. We’ve been surprised by the number of ways in which they’ve contributed to shaping the Kelowna we know today, starting with the first Italian settlers coming here 140 years ago thanks to a chance meeting involving Father Pandosy. They brought their culture, traditions and skills from Italy, many of which are showcased in the exhibition.”

The exhibition is the culmination of years of work, and Don Rampone, with the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club, is excited to share the special show with the wider local community: 

“During the past five years, the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club has collected 150 stories about the early Italian families in the area. It has given me great satisfaction to be part of this endeavour. Now, with the construction of the exhibit La Nostra Famiglia Italiana at Kelowna Museums, we share with you the contribution these Italian families have made to life in the Okanagan.”

La Nostra Famiglia Italiana: Our Legacy in Kelowna opens on Saturday, September 23, 2023, and will run until February 2024. The exhibit will be in the Kelowna Museums Society’s flagship location at the Okanagan Heritage Museum (470 Queensway Avenue) in downtown Kelowna. Admission is by donation—suggested donation: $10 per person/$25 per family.

In addition to the celebration of the exhibit opening, the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club will also be hosting its Vendemmia (Harvest) celebration at the Okanagan Heritage Museum on September 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a grape stomp and food available for purchase. You can learn more about that here.

Snyder says the Kelowna Museums Society team can’t wait to welcome visitors to the exhibit, and attendees may leave with a new appreciation:

“We’re all excited to share with our visitors historical photos, special objects, original videos and fascinating stories, some of which are told directly by the Italian community in their own voice… and, of course, cherished recipes!

I have a new appreciation for what it must’ve taken to get from Italy to Kelowna during the turn of the 19th century, and I’ll never look at the terrazzo floor of Peter’s Independent Grocer the same way again! Come on down and check out this fun and fascinating new exhibit at the Okanagan Heritage Museum.”

The Kelowna Canadian Italian Club is proudly celebrating Italian culture and contributions to Kelowna through partnering on this exhibit. They are also offering a number of other events as well, including a celebration of Italian wine and the debut of a full-length documentary. Full details can be found on KCIC’s website here.

Learn more about La Nostra Famiglia Italiana: Our Legacy in Kelowna here. Find the latest information on the Kelowna Museums Society online here.