museum 

Museum The new Village North location of the Whistler Museum and Archives is on the verge of making history. The board of directors for the Whistler Museum and Archives Society is considering keeping the doors of the museum open past the regular Labour Day long weekend, typically the time when the museum shuts down for the winter. "Since opening the new location our guest visits are up almost 400 per cent over the same period last year," says Tom Horler, president of the society. "We have already extended our weekend hours to accommodate the increased interest in the museum." From July 1 to 12 889 people visited the museum, substantially more than the 265 visitors that trooped through the old museum across from Function Junction in the same period last year. The extension of the weekend hours may carry over to an extension of the museum season as Horler and the rest of the board will be discussing keeping the museum open when they sit down at their monthly meeting Aug. 9. He says they will consider keeping the museum open until the end of the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, Oct. 9. The Resort Municipality of Whistler covers the operating costs of the museum, which is run by the non-profit society. According to Horler the society can't run a deficit but the increased donations at the door, coupled with some new corporate sponsorships, may be enough to allow for an extension. A new fund-raising effort around Christmas will light up a Christmas tree in the Marketplace with strings of lights purchased by donations. "The more people that walk in the more the donation box fills up," says Horler. "It's encouraging to see the support we are getting with the increased profile of our new location." Horler says other successful winter resorts — Steamboat and Breckenridge, Colo. are examples — have managed to capitalize on their history, using it as another dimension to diversify each resort's image. In time, he says, Whistler could take a page out of its own history books and hold it up for the world to read. "We don't have the old Victorian gold mining buildings around, but our history is diverse and has a lot to say," he says. Although the museum has typically closed down for the winter, Horler says the facility is always available for conferences and private functions and the slide show produced by the society is still available for showings. "Although the museum is closed to the general public its functions still carry on," he says. Bettina Falloon, manager of the museum, says standing at the entrance of the museum and watching a steady stream of faces march through the door to check out Whistler's past is not only encouraging, it bodes well for the future of the museum. She says the most surprising thing about the new location is the number of long-time locals who are checking out the museum for the first time. "At the old location people always passed by the museum on the way to somewhere else," Falloon says. "Now with the new location, there are no excuses. The locals are coming in and just going, ‘Wow.’" She says a new interactive exhibit called "Caution: Children at Play" was completed last week and is ready to go. Using interactive techniques and learning games, the exhibit will teach children about Whistler's natural features and history in a play-like setting.

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