Tag Archives: Whistler Museum and Archives

Whistler Museum: Year in Review

The past year has been one of great exhilaration, vision and accomplishment for the Whistler Museum & Archives Society.  Together with the Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers, the museum continued to advance its mission to collect, preserve, document and interpret the natural and human history of mountain life in Whistler, and broaden our program offerings.

2018 marks the busiest year in the museum’s history, with over 12,800 exhibit visits and an additional 10,600 people partaking in the museum’s many events and programs.  These programs included our long-running Valley of Dreams Walking Tour, which educates guests and locals alike on the pioneer history of the region, tales behind the development of the mountains, and the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.  The tour is currently in its 22nd year and runs daily throughout June, July and August.

Walking tours have been run by the museum for 22 years, making it our second longest running program (beaten only by the Annual LEGO Building Competition).

The museum’s Discover Nature program was another highlight from the past year.  This program, which runs in July and August, included a Discover Nature Station at Lost Lake Park and a nature-based walking tour.  Our friendly interpreters used the touch table items to engage participants and to encourage questions about the marvels of natures.  Participants also had the opportunity to dig deeper into any of our items on display (or things not on display) to discover fun facts about some of Whistler’s local organisms.

Other museum program highlights this year included Kids Après, Crafts in the Park (in partnership with the Whistler Public Library), Nature 101 training seminars, our 3rd annual Mountain Bike Heritage Week, Feeding the Spirit and, of course, our long-running Speaker Series.

Brandywine Falls, now a provincial park, was once the Conroy family homestead and then a bustling resort run by the Gallagher family. Photo: Whistler Mountain Collection

My personal favourite Speaker Series event we held this year was with Julie Gallagher, who grew up at Brandywine Falls, and whose parents Ray and Ruth Gallagher ran a resort in the current location of Brandywine Provincial Park.  After delivering a riveting talk on April 28th, Julie offered to take staff and guests on a walk through Brandywine Falls the following day, describing where many lost structures were located, and even showed us a few remnants of structures just off the main viewing area that I personally have walked past many times but would never have noticed if she had not pointed them out.

One of the major accomplishments of the museum this year was the completion of Coast Mountain Gothic: A History of the Coast Mountain Gothic Arch Huts, a virtual exhibit with the support of the Virtual Museum of Canada.  This exhibit explores the story, design and construction of Coast Mountain Gothic Arch Huts and the people and organizations who brought them to life.  This was a major endeavour that took over two years to complete and was also the museum’s first fully bilingual exhibit, with all interpretive text available in French.  You can check our the exhibit on our website under exhibits: VMC – Coast Mountain Gothic.

The VOC building the Harrison Hut in October 1983. Photo: Jay Page; UBC-VOC Archives, October 1983.

Given our lack of physical space in our current location, we are glad to have the opportunity to tell Whistler’s stories through our Museum Musings column every week – thanks to the Pique for allowing us to share 52 Whistler narratives in 2018 that would have otherwise been left untold.  We are grateful to everyone who reads our column and attends our events.  Thank you for your continued support and we’ll see you in the new year!

– Brad Nichols, Executive Director

Advertisements

Working in the Archives

The Whistler Museum houses a permanent exhibition chronicling the growth of Whistler, the journey to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympics Games, and the history of the ski resort.  A majestic wolf nestles in the corner of the natural history section, while in the back there is occasionally a temporary exhibit.

Most recently the temporary exhibit focused on Isobel and Don MacLaurin, two important figures to the Whistler scene.  Items displayed ranged from a painting Isobel had done of a black bear and cubs, which was displayed in the original Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain, to Don’s 1977 award for Innovation in Education.

However, there is more to this museum as it also houses the Whistler archives.  But what exactly does that entail?

As a masters student in Archival Studios, I often get asked: “But what are archives?” or “So what does an archivist do?”  Answering these questions is not so easy.  Archives, and the archivist’s role, are nuanced and complicated, and they play an important function in society, including Whistler’s.

The archives room within the Whistler Museum is full of the stories of the resort town and those who have called it home.

What are archives?  In the Whistler Museum, the archives are held in a  room, a basement and a few storage containers filled with documents, photographs, artifacts, and, for the remainder of the summer, two hard-working students.

Working in an archive can include many things.  Appraisal, for example, is an important function that involves deciding which records to keep and which ones don’t fit within the archive’s mandate.

Th Whistler Museum and Archive’s mandate is to collect, preserve and interpret the natural and human history of mountain life, emphasizing Whistler.  This mandate gives us a broad scope around what to acquire or keep to accurately represent the town’s rich heritage.

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1997: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum and Archives Society), Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.

There is also arrangement and description – this consists of arranging records in structures that represent them best and makes it easy for researchers to review them.

A third function is preservation, which is an important part of archival work.  It consists of activities like putting records in protective files, being aware of temperature and humidity levels, and hoping that the shadow you just saw scurrying under the shelf wasn’t a silverfish!  (Museum collections are very susceptible to pest damage.)

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

We also digitize materials, both to preserve them and to make them available to a wider audience.  In addition, we help researchers find the records they need.

The archives are open to the public by appointment; staff will have materials available to you when you arrive and be happy to assist with your research needs.

In a society, archives preserve history and aim to be as accurate and representative as possible about the community they represent.  In a town like Whistler, archives contribute to building a solid foundation of civic pride in our shared heritage.  They show us how far we have come from the Rainbow Lodge days, the monumental effort that brought the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Whistler in 2010, and generally instill a sense of pride in the tireless individuals who brought to life the Whistler we all know and love.

Sasha Duranseaud is one of two summer collections assistants at the Whistler Museum.  She will be returning to the University of British Columbia in the fall to continue her Masters in Archival Studies.

Looking Back On A Busy Year

A special thank you to everyone that came out to our annual general meeting (AGM) held last Wednesday, June 13 to reflect on 2017 (and eat some salmon and salad).  It’s always great to see everybody and to hear from our members!

Last year marked the 30th anniversary of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society, and it was our busiest year or record.

The museum’s story begins when early pioneer Myrtle Philip and Cypress Lodge owner Dick Fairhurst confessed to Florence Petersen, a retired school teach who started coming to the valley in 1955, their worry that Whistler’s early days would soon be forgotten.  Florence eased their fears by promising them that their stories would be remembered and, true to her word, Florence founded the Whistler Museum & Archives as a charitable non-profit society.

Florence Petersen (left) and Myrtle Philip (right) enjoying a joke together.

Since incorporating on February 12, 1987, the museum’s basic function has been to collect and preserve the history of the Whistler Valley and to display and disseminate information about Whistler’s history and its role in the greater society of British Columbia and Canada.

Last year was the busiest year in the museum’s history in terms of exhibit visits, with a 9.2% growth over 2016 (another record year).  During this period, the museum started developing temporary exhibits using our programming space in the rear of the museum.

Florence Petersen with the new sign for the Whistler Museum and Archives building in Function Junction, opened in 1988.

Temporary exhibits we developed in 2017 include Mountaineering in the Coast Mountains; Collecting Chili Thom; Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978-1985; The Evolution of Ski Film Technology; and People of Whistler with Eric Poulin.

Paul Burrows speaks to a packed house at the opening of The Whistler Question: A Photographic History.

We had another strong year for our events and programming.  Programs included favourites like our Valley of Dreams Walking Tours (June through August, back again this summer!), Speaker Series events, Mountain Bike Heritage Week, Nature 101 seminars, multiple children’s crafts events, our 21st annual LEGO competition, and school field trip visits.

We also expanded our Discover Nature program at Lost Lake to include an additional day.  Discover Nature featured a manned booth in Lost Lake Park all summer, with interactive natural history displays and scheduled interpretive nature walks.

The touch table at Discover Nature during a chilly day in the summer.

Visitor numbers have continued to increase through the first half of 2018 and we hope that trend will persist through what is sure to be a busy summer.  Still to come are more temporary exhibits and programs for children and adults and planning continues for a new facility in the coming years.

Having limited physical space for our exhibits, we have to rely heavily on our web presence, social media and this very column to help share Whistler’s narratives.  We plan on using these platforms to keep sharing stories and we hope you all enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy researching and writing them.

One of the many photos that have been featured on our social media. Here the Rainbow Ski Jump before it was pulled down in 1984.

A big thank you to everyone who has visited our exhibits, attended our events, read our stories, and otherwise helped spread the word about Whistler’s fascinating heritage.

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!

LEGO Competition 2017 Recap

Last Saturday the Whistler Museum was happy to welcome 41 children for our 21st annual LEGO Building Competition. Because of the smoke in the valley, we had to bring the kids inside to build their creations. This didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s sprits or creativity!

DSC_0012 copy.jpg

The kids in the 9-11 age group begin to build their LEGO transportation creations.

After a short presentation and introduction, the kids were given 45 minutes to build their best interpretation of the theme. This year’s theme was “Imagination Transportation”, to showcase how much transportation has changed in the past 100 years of Whistler. The children were asked to build anything to represent their ideal form of transportation, real or imaginary. We had some really inventive interpretations of the theme, including spaceships, a hover-board, and an impressive black submarine from a talented 8 year old.

DSC_0042 copy.jpg

A colourful flying car built by a 6 year old named Peter.

DSC_0046 copy.jpg

Gregory’s jet engine and Marie’s hover-board powered by rockets, both from the 9-11 age category.

 

We would really like to thank our judges Alison Hunter, Marie Holland from the Audain Museum, Julie Burrows from the Whistler Public Library, and Alyssa Bruijns from the Whistler Museum and Archives. We wouldn’t be able to hold the competition without your support! The winners they decided on this year were as follows:

Ages 5 and under:

  1. Michael M.
  2. Asher
  3. Cam H.

Ages 6-8:

  1. Isaac P.
  2. Ethan A.
  3. Joey J.

Ages 9-11:

  1. William O.
  2. Zachary D.
  3. Bronwyn D.

Ages 12 and up:

  1. Samuel L.
  2. Linus K.
  3. Dylan P.
DSC_0030 copy.jpg

A little boy from the under five age group with his impressive DUPLO train adorned with a polar bear!

DSC_0036 copy.jpg

The kids in the 12 and up table share their LEGO with a boy from a younger group.

 

 

Even if a child didn’t win a prize, they still went home with a loot bag fun of fun goodies.

This event wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the support we receive every year from our generous local businesses. This year we received donations from Armchair Books, Cows Ice Cream, Escape! Whistler, IGA, Meadow Park Sports Centre, PureBread, The Great Glass Elevator, Avalanche Pizza, The Old Spaghetti Factory, and Whoola Toys.

We would also like to give a huge thank you to every child and parent or caretaker that was involved in the LEGO Competition. We love to see everyone come out to have fun, and despite the relocation it was a success. See you next year!

 

Whistler Museum Celebrates 30 Years

It was the chance for a weekend get-away spot that spurred Florence Petersen and four friends to purchase a small cabin at Alta Lake in the mid ’50s.

Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society) and her friends (left to right) Jacquie Pope, June Tidball, Fido, Getty Gray and Eunice "Kelly" Forster at their Witsend cottage in 1955.

Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society) and her friends (left to right) Jacquie Pope, June Tidball, Fido, Betty Gray and Eunice “Kelly” Forster at their Witsend cottage in 1955.

At the time, the valley was a quaint summer fishing resort with only a handful of year-round residents.  In the years following, the valley would transform from its humble beginnings into the internationally renowned four-season resort we now know.

With so much change taking place in the ’70s, early pioneer Myrtle Philip and Cypress Lodge owner Dick Fairhurst confessed to Florence a worry that the early days would soon be forgotten.  Florence eased their fears by promising them that she would somehow ensure that their stories would be remembered and, true to her word, Florence started the Whistler Museum and Archives as a charitable non-profit society.

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1977: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum and Archives Society), Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1977: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen, Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.

Since incorporating on February 12, 1987, the Museum’s basic function has been to collect and preserve the history of the Whistler Valley and to display, educate and disseminate information about Whistler’s history and its role in the greater society of British Columbia and Canada.

To that end, the Museum collects and preserves artefacts, archives and oral histories.  To date we have acquired some 275 feet of archival records, including documents and photographs.  Our collection includes 2332 artefacts; 80 oral interviews that have been conducted, digitized and transcribed; approximately 300,000 photographs, both negatives and prints; 150 hours of video (VHS, SVHS, DVD, DVcam, hi8 and U-Matic formats); and 13.5 hours of film in both 8mm and 16mm.

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

Our Collections Manager Alyssa strives to organize, catalogue and digitize our ever-growing archive without being swallowed by it.

In order to make the Museum’s information easy to access there is a consistent ongoing project to organize, catalogue and digitize its collection.  The artefact collection is 99% catalogued.  150 archival collections have been catalogued and are available online at the Museum’s ICA-Atom archival database.  Approximately 42,000 photographs have been digitized to archival standards.  The Museum endeavours to interpret the history of Whistler and the Museum’s information collection for visitors and the community with its exhibits, walking tours, blog and programs such as our very successful Discover Nature Project.

2016 was the busiest year in the Museum’s history in terms of exhibit visits, with a 7% growth over 2015 (another record year).  We hope to continue our momentum in growing our numbers in regards to both our exhibit visits and the amount of material that we can make available to the public.

An original gondola from Whistler Mountain sits proudly as part of our exhibits.

An original gondola from Whistler Mountain sits proudly as part of our exhibits.

A special thank you to everyone who has volunteered, donated, visited our exhibits, attended our events, read our stories and helped spread the word about Whistler’s fascinating heritage over the past 30 years.

The Whistler Museum would like to invite you to our 30th Anniversary Open House on Sunday, February 12, 7:30 – 9 pm.  Join us for an evening of food, music and free admission to explore the museum, venture into the archives and meet our staff.  Everyone is welcome and we hope to see you there.

New Panels Installed in Rainbow Park

The Whistler Museum is pleased to announce that new interpretive panels have been installed in Rainbow Park. The panels detail life in Whistler’s early days, including the lives of Myrtle and Alex Philip and other early visitors to Alta Lake’s famous ‘Rainbow Lodge’. The newly installed panels have replaced the older panels that had been in place since the Whistler Museum was founded in 1986.

New panels adorn the historic cabins at Rainbow Park. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

The panels have been installed in the three remaining structures from Rainbow Lodge, which closed in 1974. Many of the buildings were destroyed in an accidental fire in 1977. These buildings have been moved slightly from their original location, but still sit in what was the original Rainbow Lodge Area.

The new panels were installed to continue the legacy of our 2011 ‘100 Years of Dreams’ celebration, which commemorated Myrtle and Alex Philip’s first visit to the valley in August, 1911. Whistler owes much of its development to these early visionaries, whose passion for the natural beauty of the area inspired them to build the first resort in Whistler.

Visitors to Rainbow Park can now read about life at the lodge, the history of transportation in the valley, the community on Alta Lake, and how the area transitioned from a busy tourism community to a quiet lakeside park.

A visitor to Rainbow Park checks out the newly installed interpretive panels. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

These panels are on public display to be enjoyed by any visitor to Rainbow Park.

This project was made possible by Canadian Heritage through their Community Anniversaries Program.