Whistler Museum meets its collection goals thanks to new gallery, artifacts database 

The real story is behind the scenes, according to museum's 2013 AGM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE/TOURISM WHISTLER - Taking shape The Whistler Museum and Archives had a busy 2013 cataloging their artifacts and opening a news gallery.
  • Photo BY Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler
  • Taking shape The Whistler Museum and Archives had a busy 2013 cataloging their artifacts and opening a news gallery.

Small growth, but steady progress was the story of the Whistler Museum and Archives in 2013, members were told during its annual general meeting on Wednesday, June 11.

Sarah Drewery, the museum's executive director, said overall they were pleased.

She added that highlights included the new Evolution of Skiing exhibit of important and rare skis and snowboards of historical importance to the region.

Treasurer Roger Lundie announced at the AGM that finances operated at a deficit of $24,911 over the year, but the numbers were misleading, Drewery said. The 2012 deficit was $18,002.

"It looks bad but it's not bad," she says. "We were waiting for cheques, including one from the RMOW, and we got it in January 2014."

Drewery added that they receive RMOW payments quarterly. Another cheque, from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for $15,000, came in April. Timing of payment was the main issue.

Overall grant funding from various sources was $60,700 (apart from municipality funding of around $120,000), she added.

The museum has budgeted for similar results in 2014.

"Basically, we broke even with a small reserve," Drewery said, calling it a typical year for the museum. She added that they were in a good place.

"As long as we are not spending more than what we are getting in. We're a not-for-profit; obviously I would like to make more revenue always. If we make more revenue we spend it, we're not storing it. We would do more projects and work on the collection, bring in more exhibits," she said.

The financial report was prepared by McMillan Thorn & Co Ltd.

Visitor numbers were consistent with previous years. The museum saw 4,500 paying visitors, with a further 1,231 people coming in for programs and events.

Events outside the museum, in the Village Stroll or elsewhere, attracted around 1,000 people.

"The numbers were actually a tiny bit down, but we were closed for October and November to build the new exhibit space, if we hadn't closed, we'd be a tiny bit up. It's steady," said Drewery.

The new exhibition space features 100 pairs of skis and snowboards collected by the museum over the years. They were unable to be displayed until mid-November 2013, when the exhibit opened.

The collection includes 100-year-old skis once owned by the founder of Rainbow Lodge in Alta Lake, Myrtle Philip, commonly seen as one of Whistler's founders.

The centre of the exhibit is a three-metre high glass case — holding around 10 skis or snowboards. It's too soon to say how much the new gallery is impacting visitor numbers said Drewery, though she noted that 2014 visitor numbers, so far, are already higher than last year, by 350 people.

It is the collection itself that went through the most changes in 2013, she added.

"One of the things that we're really proud of, and hasn't been reported because it's 'backstage' is that last summer we got all of our artifacts in our artifact database," Drewery said. "It sounds like something everyone should have sorted out, but it's actually rare for a museum to have 100 per cent of its artifacts organized this way. There's normally a backlog.

"It was incredible for the staff. We thought it would never happen; it was incredible. Each item is photographed, measured, described and you can look them up in the database. Everywhere I've ever worked has had an artifact backlog."

When she started, she believes just 14 per cent of the collection had been recorded.

"Now we just need to do it with the archives database. There's a lot more to do on that. There wasn't even an archives database five years ago. We set it up in 2010 and there's a lot. It's going to take a few more years," she laughed.

She added that cataloguing began of the Greg Griffith Collection — a huge collection of professional photographs of Whistler from 1970s-1990s, and the museum conducted oral-history interviews with present community members and families of pioneers.

This coming summer, grants from Young Canada Works will go to the cataloguing of the archive collection, Drewery said.

"We have about 10 boxes stuffed full of 35mm slides. We don't even know how many there are. It could be thousands."

The person selected to receive the Young Canada Works grant will be a museum-studies graduate and will have the grant for nine months, starting in September.

As well, the museum is now the proud owner of almost every Ski Trails Magazine in existence, which will also require cataloguing. The magazine recorded the activities of British Columbia resorts, including Whistler, decades ago. It was the main source of local information prior to the creation of The Whistler Question, the resort's first newspaper, founded in 1976.

"One of our summer students is digitizing the whole lot. I'm sure there will be lots of interesting material," Drewery said.

And she also talked a little about the hope of one day having a new, larger museum space.

"One of the things we talk about in the annual report is that we still want to move ahead with a new building," Drewery said. "It's a slow process and there's not much to report right now, but we are still looking for a location and we've not stopped working on it. It's our goal over the next five years or so."

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