Nanaimo Historical Society president and historian Darrell Ohs has his pet cat

Historical society seeks younger members

Nanaimo Historical Society president Darrell Ohs shares old photographs tonight at Bowen Park.

For roughly a decade, Nanaimo resident Darrell Ohs found himself writing stories on topics that most people had simply forgotten about.

As a historian and Island resident, Ohs wrote articles for the Victoria Times Colonist’s Islander Magazine on everything from Nanaimo landmarks such as the Diner’s Rendezvous and Johnson’s Hardware to an abandoned settlement near Great Central Lake. He even wrote a feature story about Charlie Abbot, a man is best known as the Chemainus Hermit.

“A lot of people have stories that are forgotten. They seem to go like dust in the wind,” Ohs said. “If you got something on the record about a person, place or thing, then that is very satisfying to me.”

Tonight (March 12), Ohs will be at Bowen Park where he will share and discuss over 100 photographs that relate to the articles he wrote for the magazine.

The presentation is organized by the Nanaimo Historical Society, which last year appointed Ohs as its new president.

“My goal is to try and build it [the society] into a more relevant organization that is going to benefit our community by preserving our past and present,” Ohs said.

The Nanaimo Historical Society was founded in 1953.

In recent years the society has faced a number of changes and challenges, including a declining and aging membership.

Ohs said that while the society gets positive turnouts to its presentations and events, they’re usually attended by non-members.

“When we have a good program we get maybe 11 members turning out but we will have a total turn out of close to 40 visitors,” he said.

In the last few years the society has seen a decline in new memberships, especially from those under the age of 50.

Ohs said the problem of attracting younger members stems from a variety of reasons, including economics and a general historical disconnect.

“I think people feel too busy. It’s like a comedy club. They would like to be in audience but not on the stage,” he said. “They’re not inspired. What they see presently or in the recent past isn’t inspiring them to participate.”

Ohs joined the Nanaimo Historical Society as a member roughly five years ago and was appointed president last year. Since then, Ohs and the society have featured presenters who have touched on topics that relate to British Columbia and the Second World War.

He said that future presentations will need to be focused on events that took place after the 1940s.

“It’s got to be something that they can relate to,” he said. “Something that they can see and touch or at least see evidence of now.”

Ohs also said that presentations are going to have to be able to connect with younger generations.

“You have to hit them on an emotional level and you have to bring some nostalgia,” he said.

Darrell Ohs presents at the Bowen Park activity centre tonight (March 12) at 8 p.m. The event is free.

Membership to the Nanaimo Historical Society is $25 a year for an individual person or $30 for a family and $34 for an organization.

Membership includes a subscription to British Columbia History, a quarterly journal.

For more information, please visit

arts@nanaimobulletin.comFollow @npescod on Twitter


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