Happy Birthday to us!
In the summer of 1986 Florence Petersen began fulfilling a promise. You see, Florence had made a promise to Myrtle Phillip and Dick Fairhurst that their stories would not be forgotten. Phillip and Fairhurst were concerned that the early days of the valley would be forgotten entirely as skiing became the dominant activity.
That summer Florence, with a group of dedicated volunteers, set to work in creating a museum in Whistler. Unfortunately, Myrtle Phillip passed away in August of that year, and did not get to see the new museum become a reality.
Florence (at left) and Myrtle share a laugh.
As items for the museum were gathered, a temporary showcase was constructed in an 11 by 14 foot room in the back of the Whistler Library. In February 1987, 25 years ago, the Whistler Museum and Archives Society (WMAS) became an official non-profit organization.
By January of 1988 the WMAS, located in Function Junction, had its own temporary space in the old municipal hall building, renovated through the generosity of the Whistler Rotary Club. The museum, which officially opened in June of 1989, showcased replicas of Myrtle Phillip’s sitting room, information on Whistler’s natural history as well as exhibits on skiing and pioneer life.
Florence poses with the new Museum sign in 1988 – this same sign adorns the side of the Museum today.
Between June and September of that year, the brand-spanking-new museum had attracted over 2,000 visitors. That number increased to over 3,800 visitors the following summer. Not too shabby Florence!
In 1995 the Whistler Museum and Archives scored temporary space in a prime location on Main Street beside the library. The new space was 1,000 square feet smaller than that in the Function Junction location, but was definitely more accessible and visible. In the first month alone of operating in the new space, the Whistler Museum welcomed 2,168 visitors.
Thirteen years later, in 2008, WMAS closed its doors to prepare for its fourth move — a new home in the adjacent structure that had previously housed the Whistler Public Library. By the end of 2009 WMAS had re-opened with a brand new interior and brand-new permanent exhibit, with support from the municipality, the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the Community Foundation of Whistler, the American Friends of Whistler and the community at large.
If you haven’t seen the new Museum, you really are missing out.
So thank you Florence and thank you to the army of volunteers over the years. Without you we wouldn’t have the awesome museum we have today and, frankly, we wouldn’t have these sweet jobs!
To celebrate our birthday, we will be holding a fundraiser at Creekbread. Please click here for all the details.