Tag Archives: digitization

The Whistler Question’s Archive Photos Bring New Exhibit

Just over a year ago we announced that we had begun digitizing negatives from The Whistler Question’s archival collection (read more here).  Since then, the staff at the Whistler Museum has been busy cataloguing and scanning nearly 35,000 photographs from 1978 to 1985.  As of today, we have reached the final stretch and are nearing the completion of this digitization project!

Just a few of the photos from the Whistler Question Collection.

The photographs were originally donated to the museum in 1991 and have gone through an extensive cataloguing and preservation process before they could be scanned and shared with the public.  This digitization project has also been generously funded by the UBC Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

As this project comes to a close, we want to celebrate these photos by sharing them with everyone, both online as they are uploaded to our photo-hosting website, SmugMug, as well as on display in the museum.  We will be opening a new exhibit, The Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978-1985, featuring a selection of some of our favourite photographs from the collection.

Every photo tells a story, though sometimes what that story is is not quite clear.

Speaking as the Collections Coordinator at the museum, assisting in the creation of this exhibit has been one of the highlights for me this summer.  Coming to Whistler as a visual arts student from UBC, I have always had a strong interest in photographs and the stories that they tell.  Being able to go through these pictures has given me the chance to get a glimpse of the unique culture Whistler had during the late 70s and 80s.

These snapshots of various people and happenings document Whistler during a time of rapid change.  Events such as the construction of the Whistler Village and the opening of Blackcomb show Whistler growing into the world class resort that it is today.  But there are also photos of the local community, bar events, school plays and road accidents, which express the vibrant and unique vitality of the people living in this mountain town.

In the exhibit itself, I wanted to display these images in a way that would convey a sense of the overwhelming number of photographs whilst respecting the integrity of the photographs themselves.

For some, the collection is sure to bring back some memories of their own time in Whistler during the 1970s and 80s.

For some, these photos will spark a sense of nostalgia of the memories that were captured; for others, these photos act as a window to the past of what this town once was.

With these documentary photographs of our town during a pivotal time, this September The Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978-1985 invites the public to experience a Whistler that is long gone, but not forgotten.

By Lauren Smart.  Lauren is the Whistler Museum’s Collections Coordinator this summer.  She is a visual arts student at UBC and will be returning in the fall to continue her studies.

Happy Birthday Whistler Question!

Earlier this year, Whistler’s longest-running newspaper, the Whistler Question, celebrated their 40th anniversary. The Whistler Museum wanted to celebrate in style, so what better present could we give than digitizing nearly 35,000 photographs from the Question’s archival collection and making them available online to the public?

Our archives recently received generous funding from UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre to digitize The Question’s negatives. The project will aim to preserve and share snapshots taken for every week’s newspaper spanning from 1978-1985. These stunning black and white 35mm negatives chronicle such poignant events in Whistler’s history — Village construction, the opening of Blackcomb, 1982 Alpine Skiing World Cup, to name a few. We felt this collection would not only be of the most use to the community, but also the most fun to explore in its entirety online.

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The Keg hits the road, from the week of May 28, 1981.

When the collection’s digitization is complete, anyone with an Internet connection will be able to explore this town’s sporting events, parades, Village construction projects, road collisions, festivals and portraits of locals from the years 1978-1985. Corresponding captions that originally accompanied the photos in each week’s published newspapers will tell the story of Whistler’s transitional years and the day-to-day lives of the people who lived here at the time, all on one snazzy website.

The Question’s negatives were donated to our institution in 1991. When archival documents are donated to the museum, they go through quite the process before we are able to share them with the public. The entire collection must be labelled with an accession number, put into preserver sleeves safe for photographs, and then entered into our online database with full descriptions. It is at this point we are able to make high-quality scans of the photographs.

Once the collection is scanned, we will upload it to our Smugmug photo-hosting website, so that the public can explore and even purchase the photos for personal or commercial use. The Whistler Question collection will join several collections of already digitized material, including the Whistler Mountain collection, the Myrtle Philip collection, the George Benjamin collection, among several others already hosted on this website.

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We have boxes full of binders full of pages full of strips of negatives. There are a LOT of photos to scan!

We have finally begun scanning, slowly bringing Whistler’s history into the digital world. The project is slated to take roughly six months, at the end of which we hope to present to you the massive Question collection in all its glory, online.

Happy Birthday, Whistler Question — here’s to many more!

“For Those Tired of Questions…”

Usually, if you’re looking for a laugh, you don’t seek out your local newspaper. Of course, as we’ve made clear over and over again in this space, Whistler is no ordinary town. We’re blessed with more out-of-the-boxers, more trixsters, and more contrarians per capita than most small towns, and their presence has coloured our history remarkably.

Back in 1977 a group of free-thinking  and creative souls began publishing the Whistler Answer. In its first iteration the Answer ran until 1982, and it made a short revival in 1992-1993. The Answer provided an alternative voice for a growing community full of ski bums, squatters, hippies, and other counter-cultural types. Even its title was irreverent, a playful response to the Whistler Question, the only serious local paper at the time.

The Answer’s content was witty, creative and cherished by (almost) all who were around to read the originals. Few publications could have managed to fit in so much censor-maddening drugs, nudity and profanity while maintaining such a consistently hilarious and good-natured tone.

The first cover of the Whistler Answer, launched April 1st 1977.

The first cover of the Whistler Answer, launched April 1st 1977.

 With that said, we are extremely excited to announce the launch of the Whistler Museum’s latest on-line exhibit, the full digitization of both runs of the Answer, Whistler’s original underground newspaper. It can be found at www.whistlermuseum.org/whistleranswer, or from anywhere on our main website under the “Exhibits” drop-down menu simply click on “Whistler Answer.”

While it often featured stories that weren’t covered elsewhere, due to its heavy satire and quirky record-keeping the Answer’s main historic value stems less from its recorded facts than from its expression of the spirit of the times. The Answer provides a window into the oft-reminisced “Old Whistler,” an idyllic era that pre-dates our valley’s hyper-development and fast-paced urban atmosphere.

The guerilla newspaper’s content was inherently iconoclastic and irreverent, and when we look back upon that era in Whistler’s history, quite often the youthful, free spirit of the “ski bum” community is considered just as important as the more conventional historic figures: politicians, developers, business leaders, and so on. A core element of Whistler’s historical narrative is that many of the rebellious, counter-cultural youth went on to fill these more “serious” roles in later years.

With the benefits of hindsight one can see the extent to which those counter-cultural elements that the Answer represented actually became the mainstream in Whistler. With that in mind, a playful browse of the Answer catalogue is perfect fodder to debate whether Whistler’s free spirit is truly long-gone, or alive and well.

Hard-hitting journalism, December 1992.

Hard-hitting journalism, December 1992.

Either way, times have clearly changed. Consider how the Whistler Answer is now digitized, text-searchable, tablet-friendly, and has been given a permanent on-line home, but the original 1977-82 run was hand-drawn, hand-lettered and hand-pasted by the light of kerosene lamps in a local squat. That, in its own right, is an apt summary of Whistler’s mind-numbing rate of change in recent decades.

The original idea to digitize the Answer was born from a conversation between Whistler Museum staff and original Whistler Answer editor Charlie Doyle in 2011. Funding for the project was generously provided by the University of British Columbia’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, as part of their British Columbia History Digitization Program.