Cameras and museums: How photographs help preserve history 

click to enlarge THE GRIFFITH COLLECTION - PICTURE PERFECT Photo archives are an important part of keeping track of Whistler's history.
  • the Griffith Collection
  • PICTURE PERFECT Photo archives are an important part of keeping track of Whistler's history.

No one can deny that Whistler is an extremely photogenic place. With the valley's majestic mountains, clear blue lakes, and abundant wildlife, it has been a beautiful getaway for lovers of the outdoors for more than a century. Many changes have taken place over those years, and the Whistler Museum and Archives Society (WMAS) is fortunate to have an extensive photo collection that documents most of it. It is amazing how much the valley has changed over the decades, and the ability to actually see the differences through photographs is a great asset for the preservation of Whistler's history.

If you follow the Whistler Museum on social media, you know that we have some very interesting photos in our archives. One of our largest photo collections is the Greg Griffith Collection. Greg Griffith is an Australian-born photographer who moved to Whistler in 1973 to ski. He went on to have a successful career in photography, showcasing Whistler's natural beauty and documenting more than 30 years of Whistler's history. Donated to the Whistler Museum in 2009, the collection is made up of thousands of Whistler-related photographs, ranging in subject from skiing and snowboarding competitions to mountain tours and dramatic scenery.

Another of the Museum's larger photo collections is the George Benjamin Collection, which was donated in 2010. George Benjamin is a semi-professional photographer, who moved to Whistler in 1970 after staying in Toad Hall for a ski vacation. He owned a well-known cabin called Tokum Corners until the 1980s and opened a photography store called the Photo Cell in Creekside, following in the footsetps of other family members that owned a photo-finishing business in Ontario. He lived in Whistler until the 1980s, and took many impressive photographs of the area during his time here.

The Whistler Museum is also proud to house the Philip Collection, which includes photographs taken during the Rainbow Lodge era. These photos illustrate the beauty of Whistler while it was still an undeveloped fishing retreat, and offer an interesting comparison between the Whistler Valley of the early- to mid-19th century, and the Whistler of today.

There are so many other aspects of the WMAS photo collection that we won't be able to cover in this article, but they all play an enormous part in illustrating the valley's colourful history. From early horseback riding trips to present-day Crankworx festivals, the trusty camera is always there to help preserve our history.

The WMAS collection currently includes more than 170,000 photographs, which may seem like a lot, but we are always looking for more. We are especially eager for photographs related to snowboarding and mountain biking in Whistler, photographs documenting life as mountain staff, and photographs from the 1990s to the present.

With the 10th anniversary of the Olympics coming up, we're hoping to expand our Olympic photographs collection, too.

Any photographs related to Whistler are extremely useful, though, and if you're interested in donating to the museum, please get in contact with us! You can send an email to our archivist, Alyssa Bruijns, at archives@whistlermuseum.org. We would love to be able to add your photos and stories to the larger Whistler narrative.

If you're interested in viewing part of our photo collection, you can go to www.whistlermuseum.smugmug.com, where you can order prints of any archival photo we have digitized. You can also follow us on Facebook or Instagram, where we often feature photographs from the WMAS collection.

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