By Nicole Fitzgerald
Whistler Museum and Archives President Alex Kleinman doesn’t know to what extent the federal government’s recent decision to cut $4.6 million in funding to the Museums Assistance Program will affect the Whistler museum, but he remains optimistic.
“We don’t really know how the cuts are going to affect us,” Kleinman said. “The reality is that there is probably going to be some deep cuts to smaller institutions. The first level of funding will look at protecting our country’s history.”
Operations for the Whistler museum carry on as usual. Operations are funded by the Resort Municipality of Whistler, not federal funding. Kleinman said the RMOW contributes roughly 35 to 65 per cent of the museum budget.
However, funding for projects extending beyond operations and projects not yet funded look somewhat dubious. It’s hoped Whistler’s profile as co-host of the 2010 Olympic Games will distinguish the resort town from other small museums. Kleinman said museums catering to larger communities would most likely receive priority in terms of funding, with smaller museum facilities’ requests falling to the bottom of the pile.
“With the way the money looks, it is going to be tough, but not impossible because of who we are,” said Kleinman. “Because we have that profile and we are going to use every inch of that profile to make it work and look at what the other options are.”
Museum officials are currently in the throes of developing a museum master plan that will be completed by the New Year.
At present the museum resides in portable units behind the new library that is under construction in the village. A new facility will be needed. While working on securing a proper home, museum officials are focusing on integrating Whistler’s history right into the community.
New historic display boxes will begin popping up throughout Whistler Village. Two are currently in the works: one on Nancy Greene, the other on village architect Eldon Beck.
“Short and mid-term projects like these are going to give an explosion of interesting things to see and draw you through the village,” Kleinman said.
“I think we have some exciting things on the horizon. We have an interesting story to tell and I think we can do a very good job and involve the right partners and get funding for mid- and short-term (projects) more easily than the final product (a new museum facility). That is going to be a hard thing. We just keep plugging at it.”
He doesn’t know when the new facility might come into fruition, but it’s most likely to be after the 2010 Olympics.
“They are wanting to have a long term heritage component from the Games, but we will have to wait until after the Games to see if there is any money left over,” he said. “I think there is money there, but to build a full building, just on the Olympic train, I don’t think is entirely possible, not the way it is structured right now.”
Again he reiterated the importance of the Whistler story and how that will fuel the museum’s cause.
“We have big numbers (of people coming through visiting Whistler) and a compelling story element to profile,” he said. “We’ve been an Olympic contender six times. We have a huge story to tell.”