After five years at the Whistler Museum and two and a half at the helm as executive director, Sarah Drewery is leaving her position to pursue personal projects and travel.
"I was so lucky to be able to work at the museum," she said this week. "Most people don't get the chance to work on something that's so intrinsic to the community. I've got to meet all these people you never normally would, I've got to hear these stories and help record them and I'm just really grateful for the experience."
Drewery joined the staff as collections manager in 2009 at a critical moment in the museum's history. The museum had gone several years without a collections manager and had just reopened in its current location behind the library.
"When I started it was very much an organization that wasn't doing very well and had been closed for a couple of years, and we all got the impression that it was seen by the community as something that may or may not work," Drewery recalled.
"I think that the whole team, the board and the staff have proved that it does work."
The museum took several major steps forward during Drewery's time, including digitally cataloguing all of the facility's artifacts and beefing up programming, which she credits to the board of directors and staff.
"I just feel on all levels the museum has really improved and grown so much over the last six years, and that's a team effort and it's been really great to be a part of that team," Drewery said.
"We really feel like we've proved that we're the little museum that can."
Looking ahead, Drewery said the biggest priority should be on finding a larger, permanent location for the museum.
"We'll never realize our full potential in our current building, so that's definitely where the staff and board are going to be working really hard in the next few years," she said.
To that end, the museum has hired architect Crosland Doak with the $20,000 in grant funding provided by the American Friends of Whistler to assess the feasibility of several potential locations. Drewery added that she'd like to see the museum stay in the village, and that placing it within the municipality's planned Cultural Connector, linking Whistler's cultural facilities, would be "an asset" but that other locations also have their advantages.
With Steven Thorne's 2011 cultural report, A Tapestry of Place, and the Community Cultural Plan that followed two years later, Drewery said the way culture is viewed in the resort has changed for the better.
"It really feel like there's a different attitude (towards culture) in the whole community, council and with RMOW staff," she said.
"There's a realization that cultural tourism is valuable and is worth pursuing and... I think that's really great for the resort and it's going to be really great for the whole future of Whistler."
Drewery's last day at the museum is Feb. 7.