Museum unveils multi-million plans 

Innovative approach contributes to tourism economy

By Alison Taylor

It has taken three years, countless hours, and endless imagining but the Museum Task Force has finally made public its lofty vision for a new Whistler museum.

The Master Plan Report, presented to council Monday night, ultimately envisions a 22,000 square foot facility in the village with a $14.65 million price tag. That cost is in today’s dollars, however the museum is not looking to the municipality to fund the entire facility.

By comparison the new public library on Main Street, set to open its doors this year, is 14,500 square feet with a budget of $9.7 million.

“We are proud of this plan,” said Alex Kleinman, president of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society, in a presentation to council.

He asked council just to receive the report Monday night. A request to approve the plan will come at a later date.

The task force recognizes that the facility will not be built before the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games and an interim strategy for the museum must be developed in the meantime.

Councillor Tim Wake was the only member of council to raise some red flags at this early stage in the process.

“I think we’re dreaming big here and that’s great,” he said. But he expressed concerns about the proposed size of the facility and the price tag.

“I’m concerned where we’re going to come up with the capital for this,” said Wake. “A $14.6 million price tag is a big price tag.”

He offered several comparable museums, such as the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail, as an example of what is possible in a small space.

“It’s amazing what they do with so little space,” he said.

Mayor Ken Melamed, however, highlighted the complex relationship between the facility and the projected revenue in the plan. The projected revenue is based on the size and function of the museum space.

The master plan identifies a long-term vision for the museum with two roles — it will celebrate local mountain culture and contribute to the resort’s economic success.

“This is a unique model for a museum,” said Kleinman.

It is based on the idea that the facility will not require extensive exhibition space, rather it will share space with community partners and focus on outreach-based initiatives that enhance existing visitor offerings.

While the task force was mandated to look at the museum’s needs, it also recognized the importance of partnerships. The museum recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Whistler Arts Council and the Whistler Centre for Sustainability, anticipating that a joint facility might be a possibility. Additional partnership discussions are part of the museum’s implementation plan.

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