This was a highly successful year for Whistler Museum and Archives Society. The museum continues, with the help of the Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers, to preserve, protect, and interpret Whistler's history.
Over the course of 2019, the museum welcomed 14,410 exhibit visitors. This is an increase of 1,552 people or 12.6 per cent over 2018. In addition to exhibit visits, WMAS attracted a further 905 people to our building through our programs and events. WMAS also held a number of events and programs outside the museum and attracted approximately 9,486 people. In total, the museum provided services to approximately 2,480 individuals. This marks the busiest year in the museum's history for the fifth year in a row.
The museum expanded many of its programs in 2019, including the ever-popular Discover Nature program. This program, which ran through July and August in Lost Lake Park, offered a chance for locals and visitors to learn about Whistler's rich biodiversity through the use of touch tables and face-to-face engagements with our knowledgeable and dedicated interpreters. This year we were able to expand the program an additional day to five days a week, Monday to Friday, and our scheduled nature walks were expanded from June to August and seven days a week.
We had another strong year for other events and programs as well, including established favourites like our Valley of Dreams historical walking tours, Speaker Series events, numerous children's crafts including Crafts in the Park and our annual LEGO competition, and Mountain Bike Heritage Week.
The museum continued to develop special exhibitions throughout the year. In 2019, these included Finding a Place: A History of Housing in Whistler and Construction of Whistler Village: 1978-1984. These temporary exhibits give the museum a chance to explore and present aspects of Whistler's history that are not part of our permanent exhibit, and to use assets from the museum's ever-expanding archival and artifact collection.
One of the highlights of 2019 was the Legends of Whistler Speakers Series that was hosted in conjunction with the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and Whistler Public Library. This three-part event was moderated by Mayor Jack Crompton and featured special guests sharing their own stories and knowledge of Whistler's history.
Speakers included a cross-section of Whistler's community including former mayors, Olympians, former Whistler and Blackcomb managers, artists, librarians, musicians, and developers. Subjects ranged from development of Whistler Mountain during the 1960s, the design of Whistler Village, the life of a professional athlete in Whistler, Whistler's cultural sector, and the Whistler and Blackcomb merger.
Eldon Beck, the architect of Whistler Village, spoke during one of the events and expressed his thoughts on the events in an email to the museum stating, "It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I felt an attachment to early Whistler never realized before, very special."
I would like to take a moment to thank our funders and supporters: the RMOW, the Province of British Columbia, the Community Foundation of Whistler, American Friends of Whistler, Canadian Heritage, and our museum members for their continued support over the years.
I would also like to say a special thank you to everyone who has visited our exhibits, attended our events, read our Pique column, followed us on social media and otherwise helped spread the word about Whistler's fascinating people and history. We look forward to seeing you in 2020 (maybe at our first Speaker Series next Wednesday, Jan. 29, where we will screen Pro Patrol, Curtis Petersen's 1980 short documentary on ski patrol on Whistler Mountain, followed by a talk on changes in ski patrol and mountain safety with Roger McCarthy, Brian Leighton and Bruce Watt).