Tag Archives: artefact

COVID-19 Archival Donation Drive

The Whistler Museum & Archives is conducting a donation drive in order to collect posters, signs, photographs, videos, records, and objects documenting the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

All who spent the past few months of the pandemic in Whistler are encouraged to donate any materials relating to COVID-19 and changes made during this time to the Whistler Museum & Archives in an effort to document this time in Whistler’s history.  This donation drive is an effort to collect items such as signs and posters listing restrictions or closures placed in local businesses and public spaces, photographs and videos of the effects of COVID-19 measures, written or visual accounts of individual pandemic experiences, or other items related to social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine.  The Whistler Museum’s goal is to piece together an accurate representation of Whistler’s experience during the pandemic for the sake of the community’s historical record.

The Whistler Museum & Archives Society has been collecting artefacts and archival materials related to the history of the Alta Lake and Whistler area since it was first formed in 1988.  Whistler Museum Collection.

While the Whistler Museum & Archives has always encouraged donations of historical items local to Whistler or demonstrating mountain culture, this COVID-19 donation drive will be larger in scale and specific to pandemic-related items.  Items donated will be added to the artefact and archival collections and preserved at the Whistler Museum & Archives.  Access to items donated will be maintained through museum exhibits, reference services, and digitization projects.

“This COVID-19 donation drive is important – the Whistler Museum & Archives is collecting these items so we can share the legacy of these historic times in Whistler with each other and with future generations,” says Alyssa Bruijns, Head Archivist & Collections Manager at the Whistler Museum & Archives.

The COVID-19 Donation Drive will bring in pandemic-related items and stories is order to preserve Whistler’s unique experience with COVID-19.  Items for donation can be dropped off at the Whistler Museum & Archives between 11am and 5pm from Monday to Friday.  All donations will be quarantined for 9 days before handling by museum staff.

For any questions or to learn more about the COVID-19 Donation Drive, please email Head Archivist & Collections Manager, Alyssa Bruijns, at archives @ whistlermuseum.org.

What Happens After You Donate: The Inner Workings of the Whistler Museum’s Collection

When I meet people in Whistler and the topic of work comes up, I talk about Whistler’s wild history and how awesome it is to work with every day.  I also bring up the challenges of the job: as a non-profit, we fight with our pens each year to maintain a budget for operating through grant writing and presentations.  History marches on and collections inevitably grow; we are bursting at the seams in terms of storage in our portable behind the library.

The archives stored on-site at the museum are packed with boxes, binders, and Alyssa, our collections manager.

We are balancing the storage issue with wanting to represent as many of the subcultures in the Whistler community as we can.  This town changes fast – evidence of places, people and events from even 10 years ago have already been wiped from the landscape (The Boot, for instance).  If potential donors believe only Myrtle Philip and the Crazy Canucks are “old enough” to be considered history, the evidence of more recent events will be lost before anyone gets a chance to donate related items.

I’ll give you a step-by-step process of what happens when you donate in the hopes that perhaps you might consider it an option.  The process of donating involves bringing your items, documents, films or photographs into the museum and signing a donation form in which you’re able to give us historical context for what you’re donating – maybe “worn on Gaper Day in 1995” or “photos from shows at Alpenrock”.

Our mandate allows us to accept any item that is related to the Sea to Sky region (though we prefer receiving things relating to the Whistler community!) and items that demonstrate mountain culture.  We then give each individual item of our donation an accession number that acts as its own unique identity.

For an artefact (any physical object), a lot of physical description is necessary (object type, year of creation, years of use, dimensions, colour, material, geographic origin, condition, and so on).  We photograph artefacts from all sides, capturing details like inscriptions on the back.

Artefacts are photographed from all angles and described in detail before being prepared for storage or display.

All of these descriptions and photographs go into one catalogue record for each artefact.  This catalogue is searchable, so that if we want to find “Whistler Mountain pins” we can view all artefacts that were described this way.  Before storing artefacts, we make sure they’re cleaned of dirt, mould or anything else that might degrade their condition in storage.

Cleaning artefacts requires much care that we do not damage the object.  We often use brushes, cloth and lightly soaped water.  The artefacts are then wrapped in acid-free tissue, placed in acid-free boxes and placed on a shelf in our off-site storage.

For archival donations (written documents and media), content is more important than physical appearance.  We describe an item’s physical appearance in a catalogue entry and tag the catalogue entry with “access points” – subjects, places, people and organizations related or pictured – so that we can search for all the items related to a certain topic.

You can even search at home at whistler.ica-atom.org.  Archival donations are stored on-site at the museum because we often receive requests for certain texts or photos to be digitized.  Digitization requires a massive amount of computer storage, two very expensive scanners and a lot of employee time.

Our Collections Manager Alyssa strives to organize, catalogue and digitize our ever-growing archive.

If you’re interested in having your own items go through this rollercoaster of historical processing, come by the museum!  We’re especially looking to fill gaps in our collection – mountain biking, summer activities, restaurants, and 1996-2010.

Grassroots Galleries – Olive’s Market

What is now Olive’s Community Market in Function Junction used to be The Burnt Stew Café and was originally owned by Colin Pitt-Taylor. Not to be mixed up with Burnt Stew Computing that is still in Function Junction. Colin is now one of the board members for the Whistler Museum but before that he began a collection of his very own on the walls of the café. The collection is mostly made up of photos from Whistler’s early 70’s days and includes a lot of local characters. Though it also includes an old sled (that is no longer there due to needing room for inventory), skis and ski poles as well.

According to one of the managers of the market the artifacts inside the store are on loan from an antique shop in Squamish. Unfortunately this means there is no surefire way to know the history of them, aside from the fact they were probably used on Whistler Mountain in the early days.

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Some of the photos on the wall are the same ones from collections that the museum was given as well, including some of Cliff Jenning’s and Jim Kennedy’s photos as well as a few photos from the Soo Valley.

One of the stand out photos they have on display is the famous Toad Hall poster that is the most popular item in the Museum’s gift shop. It’s fun and quirky attitude perfectly embodies the 70’s era in Whistler and fits right in amongst the other photos in Olive’s.

Colin Pitt-Taylor used a lot of photos from his own collection and gathered the others from his friends. He started the process because after the village was completed there was not much left that recognized what Whistler had been like pre-village life; back when the local community was even smaller than it is today and when there were not as many tourists visiting the area. Colin wanted to commemorate that time in Village history and did so on the walls of the Burnt Stew café. Fortunately for the community it is still there in Olive’s even after the café was closed.

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Many of the photos feature well-known people from Whistler’s history as well as friends of Colin and he has a good recollection of the exact photos he hung up over the years. He can recall exact photos of friends that are on the walls and even where and when they were taken.

One of the managers of Olive’s recounts how people often come in to look at the photos and the occasional visitor points out their younger selves or other people they know in the photos. Quite a few of the images have the names of the people in the photos on them, which means anyone who comes in is able to tell if they may know whoever is in the photos.

The history of Whistler is what makes it the town it is today, and you can find that history all over, not just at the Museum. All you have to do is look.

 

by Michaela Sawyer

Searching the Callaghan

1956 was the year that a T33 military jet mysteriously disappeared over the Callaghan Valley area. The two pilots inside were never found and 60 years later only a few pieces have been found that would give us any clue as to what happened to the two men inside the plane when it went down.

The two men were First Officers James Miller and Gerald Stubbs of the 409 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Their flight was only scheduled to take an hour and a half and be within a hundred mile radius of the Comox base on Vancouver Island. Yet just seventeen minutes into their flight they were documented by radar as entering bad weather and were never seen again.

That is until eighteen years later in November of 1974 when the canopy of their plane was found in the Callaghan Valley, nowhere near where the search teams had been looking for the men. Forty-two years after the plane disappeared its fuselage was found not far from the Callaghan Country lodge, and then twelve years later in October 2010, remnants of one of the pilot’s helmets was found and identified by its colours.

Google Earth image of the location of the T33 crash debris. GPS data courtesy Whistler Search & Rescue.

Google Earth image of the location of the T33 crash debris. GPS data courtesy Whistler Search & Rescue.

The Whistler Museum now preserves those fragments of helmet in our archive room. It is likely they will have to be sent off to be cleaned at the Royal BC Museum though as our small museum does not have the resources to properly clean them. Archival-level preservation becomes especially challenging when you have multiple types of materials in a single artifact, like, for example, the plastic, foam, metal, and leather in a pilot’s helmet. Fifty-four years in the elements has not been kind to the pieces of the flight helmet and it will take a lot of care for them to be able to be displayed in the future.

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The remnants of the flight helmet.

The Whistler Museum also has what we can only assume is a piece from the windshield of the plane as well; a large jagged piece of curved plexiglass as well as a chunk of metal tubing. These pieces along with the helmet fragments were donated to the Museum from the RCMP after they were found in 2010.

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Callaghan Valley in the 1960s.

A television show called “Callout: Search and Rescue” even did an episode on this mysterious crash for the first episode of their third season. The episode covers the Search and Rescue team scouring the Callaghan Valley looking for any missed clues as to what may have happened to the pilots.

In October the Search and Rescue team does an annual search of the Valley and they continuously look for things like ejection seats, helmets or boots. Things that will withstand the elements and will also stand out in the forest. As of the last search in October 2015 nothing else has been found but the search still continues.

For more information check out this feature article written by Pique Newsmagazine in 2015.

By Michaela Sawyer

 

Grassroots Galleries – Mountain Paint

A few Whistler locals have taken it upon themselves over the years to display their own mini collections of items that show off Whistler’s history. One of these collections covers the walls in “Mountain Paint” located in Function Junction. There are pieces all over the store when you walk in but it is hard to miss the multitude of posters and other paraphernalia that cover the walls at the back of the store.

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Just some of the collection amassed inside Mountain Paint

Dave and Laura Kinney took over Mountain Paint 20 years ago and almost immediately their collection found its home on the walls of their store. When asked, Dave recalled that his daughter, who is an interior designer, did not want her parents’ home looking like a ski bums home, so she had Dave and his wife move the collection into the basement which is where Dave took them from to decorate the shop.

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Since then many more pieces have joined the others on the walls including many things donated by Rob Boyd and Gord Harder. The Whistler Museum and Archives has a few of Gord’s items on display including his old fridge and mountain bike.

Dave and Laura both worked for Whistler Mountain for 10 years between 1979 and 1989, and even lived at the top of the mountain for some time. This was how they became friends with the Boyd family who lived at the base of the mountain. When they started working for the Mountain though, it was still run by the Garibaldi Lift Co. and so the couple saw it through its transition into Whistler. Dave tells of when he used to work in maintenance for the company and when it came time to change the signage on the outside of the buildings, Dave took home one of the old Garibaldi signs rather than throw it away. Coincidentally, he and his wife now live on Garibaldi Way, so Dave has turned it into their address sign. The pair also has a red chair from the old chairlifts hanging from their front deck.

Most of the couples collection is built upon old newspaper clippings from the Whistler Question and Answer as well as posters collected throughout the years as Whistler Mountain grew into what it is today. Yet, Dave’s favourite piece they have on display is two pages of an old Maclean’s magazine article from 1961 entitled “Skier’s Dream.” The article is all about the plans for the Whistler area and how great it was going to be long before the Mountain was actually opened in 1966.

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“Skier’s Dream” out of January 1961’s Maclean’s Magazine

Dave fondly refers to his collection of items as a “community collection” because not only have prominent members of the community donated to it, but it is largely viewed and appreciated by the community as well. It allows people who see it to look back on the growth of Whistler and see how far it has come.

Pants? We got Pants!

Building and growing Rainbow Lodge into a bustling resort amidst the vast and isolated Coast Mountain wilderness, Myrtle Philip and her husband Alex had to draw upon an almost endless supply of resourcefulness, ingenuity, and old-fashioned hard work.

There was no shortage of tasks to be completed, much of it incongruous of the social expectations of a lady at that time. Thankfully, Myrtle wasn’t the type to be inhibited by such expectations, and she more than pulled her weight in the lodge’s year-round operations. Thus arose that eternal question: “What to wear?”

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Myrtle Philip in typical riding garb.

Well, as Myrtle recalled during a 1971 oral history interview that is preserved in the Whistler Archives:

“I used to try and wear dresses, but they weren’t practical. I had to go and do outside work, maybe harness a horse or something. You just can’t do these things in skirts.” When asked if she ever wore an apron, Myrtle bluntly replied “No. Never. To hell with it!”

And while Rainbow Lodge is generally remembered as a fishing lodge, as Myrtle explains, horseback riding quickly became a popular activity for lodge guests as well.

Fast-forward to late January and we were pleasantly surprised by a visit to the museum by Kristi King of Pemberton, BC. Kristi brought with her an old pair of leather riding breeches that had been given to her by Myrtle Philip! Kristi’s family had been close with the Philips, and since Kristi was an avid horse-person as well, Myrtle had decided to pass them on when she no longer had use for them.

Museum staff with Myrtle's overcoat and riding pants.

Museum staff with Myrtle’s overcoat and riding pants.

In the early days of Rainbow Lodge, Myrtle made most of her clothes herself, including her riding breeches. These leather pants, however, were made by the Berlin Glove Company, of Berlin, Wisconsin. Founded in 1869, B.G.C. specialized in high-end, western-style leather goods and apparel. While we are uncertain when Myrtle acquired these pants we suspect that it was later in Myrtle’s career, perhaps the 1940s or 1950s.

But wait, there’s more! A fascinating and under-appreciated aspect of the Philip’s life story is that, while they were certainly at home welcoming guests to this remote mountain valley, they were equally at ease donning formal attire and rubbing elbows with Vancouver’s social elite. They frequently entertained Vancouver’s well-connected and well-to-do up here at Alta Lake, and enjoyed trips to the big city to visit with their many friends.

Along with Myrtle’s riding pants, a formal overcoat that belonged to Myrtle was also included in the archival donation. Myrtle’s rugged, mountain lifestyle would have gone completely unsuspected by passersby while adorned in this full-length, black-sequinned coat.

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We don’t have any photos wearing this specific overcoat, but here’s an image of her and Alex looking rather sophisticated at the Rainbow Lodge 25th anniversary celebration at Vancouver’s iconic Commodore Ballroom. 1940.

Considering Myrtle’s revered position in our community’s history—if anyone could lay claim to being the founder of the community of Alta Lake, it would be her—we were naturally thrilled to receive these new donations to our archives.

Helicopters, Hats & Hummingbirds

By Jaimie Fedorak, Summer Collections Assistant

While looking through our artifact collection this summer we stumbled upon a familiar item: an Okanagan Helicopters baseball cap in the trademark orange and blue. We recognized the cap’s distinctive hummingbird logo because a helicopter enthusiast we know [Editor’s note: Jaimie’s father] has the exact same hat, but we were unsure why this hat would be part of our artifact collection.

The hat in all its orange glory.

The hat in all its orange glory.

Heli-skiing in the Whistler area has long been a popular activity, since the choppers provide access to the glaciers and backcountry areas for skiers looking for prime powder skiing. Pamphlets from the museum’s research files reveal that a bevy of helicopter companies were involved in providing heli-skiing tours, including Canadian Helicopters Ltd (one of the companies which Okanagan Helicopters became when it was restructured in later years, who also had a hummingbird logo).

Franz Wilhelmsen and unidentified man with an OK Heli, 1960s.

Franz Wilhelmsen and Willy Shaeffler with an OK Heli, 1960s.

Issues of the Garibaldi Whistler News going back as far as 1970 also prove that Okanagan Helicopters was the one of, if not the, first company offering heli-skiing services in the Whistler area. The company was allied with skiing superstar Jim McConkey, who was the Director of the Garibaldi Ski School at the time and acted as the guide on heli-skiing trips.

Early heli-skiers, near Whistler. Yes, winter is coming.

Early heli-skiers, near Whistler. Yes, winter is coming.

But the connection between Okanagan Helicopters and the resort goes back even further. Photos in the Museum’s collection show many Okanagan Helicopters machines, and the earliest photos from the Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation collection reveal that Okanagan Helicopters was the company that took Franz Wilhelmsen and company on tours of the area during the early 1960s to scope out the viability of developing a ski resort.

Touring around the Whistler Mountain alpine, early 1960s.

Touring around the Whistler Mountain alpine, early 1960s.

Once the decision was made to make the resort a reality, Okanagan Helicopters was called upon again. Construction of the lift towers was done before ground transportation up the mountain was feasible, and helicopters were thus  chosen the construction vehicle of choice. When the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA for short) was formed to promote Whistler Mountain as a potential host for the 1966 Olympics Glen McPherson, the president of Okanagan Helicopters, was on the committee due to the company’s important role in the construction of the resort.

The hat itself is most likely from the late 1970s or early 1980s – before Okanagan Helicopters became Canadian Helicopters Ltd and CHC in 1987- but the legacy of how it came to be in the collection goes back almost 20 years to the very beginning of the Whistler-Blackcomb resort.