Tag Archives: collections

Saying Goodbye to Whistler

The Whistler Museum’s Collection Manager Alyssa Bruijns will be saying goodbye to Whistler and the museum (temporarily, we hope) at the end of this month.  In her own words:

People arriving and people leaving – that’s one of the constants in Whistler.

In the past three years I’ve worked at the Whistler Museum, I’ve had countless friends leave, return, leave again and return as again.  As a result, I’ve been to many going-away parties, but I did not expect to be attending my own so soon!

After a successful and enjoyable few years working at the Whistler Museum as the collections manager, I will be stepping down at the end of September.  The time has come for me to adventure around the world a little more and finally visit the homeland of many Whistler residents – Australia.

Collections Manager Alyssa Bruijns at work in the archives.

I’ll admit my departure has been partly fuelled by the common Whistler fairytale – Canadian girl meets Australian boy with a visa ending all too soon.  I can thank the community of Whistler for introducing me to so many friends and a wonderful significant other from across the pond.  I will be back to the amazing town – it’s just a matter of when and for how long.

In the time that I’ve worked for the Whistler Museum, I’ve gotten to take part in many amazing projects.  Just last Thursday, I had lots of fun planning our first “Naming Night” which saw the community come together to name places, people and events from photos lacking information in our catalogue.

Just one of the photographs whose subjects got named. All of the names and dates provided have now been added to our information in the archives. Photo: Whistler Question Collection, 1984

I was also privileged to take part in planning our first and second annual Mountain Bike Heritage Week.  With the help of many student interns, I have overseen the cataloguing of vastly interesting collections – including Petersen, MacLaurin, Griffith and more – and the uploading of many collections to our online gallery.  Completing a mass inventory of the collections was one of the larger tasks, which allowed me to get to know Whistler intimately through the archives and artefacts that have been donated since the museum’s opening year.

Just a few of the photos from the Whistler Question Collection that have been catalogued, scanned and are now on display.

There has been one project that I have been working on for my entire time at the Whistler Museum.  When I was a bright-eyed summer student, just dipping my toes into the museum world, my task was to catalogue The Whistler Question negatives from 1978-1985.

Months later, when I returned as the collections manager, I honed my grant-writing skills in order to obtain funds to digitize those same photos.  Once granted, I oversaw more than a year of scanning and eventual uploading of 35,000 photos to our online gallery (click here to take a look).

One of Alyssa’s favourite photos on display as part of The Whistler Question: A Photographic History, on at the museum through the end of November.

Finally, I co-curated The Whistler Question: A Photographic History, 1978-1985 exhibit, which features just over 200 of these photos.  It was a roller coaster of a journey seeing these negatives go from boxes, to website, to our walls, but that journey has been massively rewarding.

The highlights of my time at the museum will definitely be the magnificent people I have worked with during my time here.  I count my co-workers as friends and have been surrounded by a supportive contingent of board members and locals that always make me feel that my work is worthwhile and important.

A community’s historical collection needs this support and engagement from the community.  I have heard comments from countless visitors to the museum that Whistler is a special place with a unique community, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Whistler’s celebration of its own past is necessary to understand what makes our town different and how we can maintain our uniqueness.  I am confident my co-workers Bradley Nichols, Allyn Pringle and John Alexander will work hard to ensure Whistler’s past is not just remembered by the community, but actively consulted when making the tough decisions for the future of this town.

Museum staff, plus summer students and volunteers – we are few but mighty. Left to right: Lauren Smart, Allyn Pringle, Danielle Winkle, John Alexander, Sierra Wells, Alyssa Bruijns, Bradley Nichols.

I thank everyone who made my time here memorable, especially Bradley Nichols for taking a young archivist on board.  Whistler, I’ll miss you dearly!

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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.