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Museum Musings: Whistler Pride has grown from humble beginnings

e-museum musings 29.03
Some on-mountain revellers at the 2018 Whistler Pride Festival.

The 29th annual Whistler Pride and Ski Festival is right around the corner! The week of Jan. 23 to 30 will be chock-full of events dedicated to diversity, inclusion and fun. Coinciding with this year’s festivities, the museum is pleased to announce the launch of a new temporary exhibit titled Pride & Progress: From the Grassroots Altitude to the Fearless Whistler Pride and Ski Festival.

Opening to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 25, the exhibit will take visitors through a visual and descriptive history of Whistler Pride.

The challenges and triumphs leading up to the world-renowned festival we know today weave a fascinating narrative. The story begins in 1992, when Altitude—as it was known then—covertly hosted about 70 participants for a gay ski week at Whistler Mountain. From these humble beginnings, the festival continued to grow, welcoming more guests and hosting increasingly renowned performers with each year, all the while working to create a safe space for the LGBTQ2S+ community in our mountain town.

The story of Whistler Pride wouldn’t be complete without an exploration of the relationship between the LGBTQ2S+ community and mountain sports. Much of that narrative centres around Pride House, the LGBTQ2S+ pavilion established during the 2010 Winter Olympics, which was a beacon of courage, visibility, and support for queer athletes to be their authentic selves. As the struggle for acceptance continues, this section of the exhibit invites visitors to reflect on the presence of homophobia in sport, and the importance of safe spaces to create awareness and encourage important conversations.

The exhibit will also feature artifacts, photographs and films from the past 29 years of the festival in its various forms that will give insight to these historic Pride events. Thanks to Dean Nelson, former festival director (2008-2018), for donating many of the artifacts and archival materials being used for the exhibit.

We’re also happy to announce that our extensive collection of Whistler Pride records and materials have now been officially catalogued, rehoused, and published on our online database. Here you can find descriptions on various events, promotions, photographs, audiovisuals and more. Please browse through at your leisure for more information on the history of the festival.

We will be celebrating opening night of Pride & Progress: From the Grassroots Altitude to the Fearless Whistler Pride and Ski Festival on Jan. 25, with evening hours from 6 to 9 p.m. We will also be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 26.  As always, entry is by donation and masks are required for all visitors to the museum—we hope to see you all here! Otherwise, the exhibit will be on display during our normal operating hours until April 19.

Not quite ready for an in-person event? Our 2021 Speaker Series conversation with Dean Nelson is also available to watch on our YouTube channel: youtube.com/whistlermuseum.

Chris Monaghan is the assistant archivist at the Whistler Museum and Archives. He has been here on a Young Canada Works contract through the fall and winter.