Last month the Whistler Museum hosted its first Virtual Speaker Series of 2021. We are still getting used to hosting events online and miss the informal camaraderie of our audiences, but we are very excited to continue hosting some amazing speakers and sharing their stories.
For our first event of the season, we were joined by Dean Nelson. Nelson is an LGBTQ+ activist and a travel expert specializing in LGBTQ+ travel who first came to Whistler in 1993 to help open the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort as part of the front desk team. He became involved in Whistler’s gay ski week, then known as Altitude, when its founder Brent Benaschak approached him about the Holiday Inn becoming a hotel sponsor for the event. From there Nelson volunteered to help with the fashion show and became increasingly more involved with the week. As part of the event on February 17, Nelson told us more about how the Whistler gay ski week came about and how it has grown over almost thirty years.
Even if you weren’t able to attend our first Speaker Series, you may have read about what Nelson had to say in the Pique of February 25th, and you can still learn more about the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival and its history by watching our talk with Nelson on the Whistler Museum’s YouTube Channel.
Prior to 2020, the Whistler Museum had relatively few records or materials documenting LGBTQ+ history in the Whistler area. Late last year, however, Nelson donated a large amount of archival material and artefacts to our collection, including photographs, promotional materials, jackets and much, much more. Along with oral history interviews (such as the one we conducted with Nelson for February’s event) and other materials, this donation helps to fill one of the gaps in our collection.
While the Whistler Pride collection is not currently available to search in our online database, we hope to begin cataloguing the collection this summer. Most summers, the Whistler Museum is able to hire summer students through the Young Canada Works program, a joint initiative of the National Trust for Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage. This summer, we are intending to hire a collections student whose main focus would be the describing, cataloguing, and rehousing of this new collection. In the past, collections students have helped catalogue the Don MacLaurin Collection, the George Benjamin Collection, the Greg Griffith Collection, and many others that are now available to search online. The ability to find documents and information online is especially important at a time when researchers may not be able to come to the archives easily.
We really enjoyed learning more about the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival with Dean Nelson last month, and are looking forward to continuing to learn more. Our next Speaker Series event examining the history of journalism and publishing in Whistler will take place at 7pm March 25 and include an audience Q&A with the speakers (while the talk by our speakers will be posted online after the event, the Q&A will not). Find more information about our upcoming Speaker Series at whistlermuseum.org/events.