Jehanne Burns and Leslie Anthony
was the chance for a weekend get-a-way spot that spurred Florence Petersen
and four friends to purchase a small cabin at Alta Lake in the mid 1950s. At
the time, the valley was a quaint summer fishing resort with only a handful of
the years following, the town of Alta Lake would transform from these humble
beginnings into the internationally renowned four-season resort of Whistler.
With so much change taking place in the '70s, early pioneer Myrtle Philip and
Cypress Lodge owner Dick Fairhurst confessed to Florence their 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.
to her word, after retiring from school-teaching in 1986, Florence kept her
promise by starting the Whistler Museum and Archives as a charitable non-profit
society, and continues to be the museum’s most popular ambassador.
twenty years later, with Whistler having grown beyond the early trailblazers'
wildest dreams, the Museum is proud to continue to collect, preserve, and tell
the stories of mountain life and the people who live it. Thanks to the seed
planted by Florence, the Whistler Museum has grown to be keeper of over 5,000
artifacts (three dimensional objects) and over 116,000 archival (one
dimensional) documents and photographs. The relics comprising the collection
range from bizarre to compelling: an old fashioned enema kit; Eldon Beck's
original sketches of the village; Rainbow Lodge's guest register; remnants of
the infamous Boot Pub such as old ski boots and photos from the “Boot Wall of
Fame”; Gord (Roxy) Harder's sticker-covered fridge; GODA correspondence from
the 1968 Winter Olympic bid; and photos of Pierre Trudeau with Franz Wilhelmsen
and Jim McConkey, to name a few.
Museum is funded through a variety of sources: 47 per cent municipal; 12 per
cent provincial/federal; 18 per cent special project grants; 16 per cent
education programs, events and admission revenues; seven per cent sales and
services—e.g. photo reproduction and use fees, research requests, and the
museum shop. Despite the multiplicity of funding sources, it adds up to a
fairly thin budget. In February 2008 the Museum closed its exhibits in light of
recent funding cutbacks to focus its energy on specific initiatives.
the closed exhibits the Museum is working on a plan to re-invent and revitalize
itself. This process involves a move to the Museum’s new home in the former
library building. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has committed to
upgrading the new museum building to look more appealing and the location will
provide the Museum with increased space and street presence. One key initiative
will be relocating the front door to the corner of the building, making it visible
from the street. Martin Pardoe, manager of parks and planning for the RMOW
believes that the move “… is a stepping stone towards a greater Museum presence
that augments the Resort's offerings to the growing cultural tourism market.”