museum 

By Loreth Beswetherick The Whistler Museum and Archives Society is looking to the future and, like the library, is working with the British Columbia Building Corporation on conceptual designs for a new facility. The museum board has defined a vision for a new building and will be meeting with BCBC to discuss the proposal prepared by museum manager Meaghan McKie in October. McKie said the next step will be to flesh out the proposal and to start to look seriously at funding options. No building cost estimates have been tabled yet. BCBC has been retained by the municipality to help with the visioning process for both the library and museum buildings. It has always been thought the two groups would share a facility on either Lot 1 or 9 between the Whistler Health Care Centre and the Brew Pub off Blackcomb Way. But the government corporation has a mandate to brainstorm for the municipality on other possible options. McKie said all the board knows at this stage is that their new building will be centrally located in the village. It will also likely have underground parking. "It was always assumed we would be together," said McKie. "Now we are being told, don't assume either way." The proposed facility is about 16 times the size of the old one. A three-storey building is envisioned with an entrance/atrium area. It will contain public washrooms, an elevator, a 200-seat auditorium with stage and screen, permanent collection display galleries, temporary display galleries, coffee shop, gift shop, office space, archives, research room and information centre. Staff would include a full-time manager, assistant manger, part-time archivist, gift shop clerks and manager, volunteer education co-ordinator, marketing co-ordinator, reception, front desk, cleaning staff and other contract positions and students as necessary. The main floor may also house the Whistler Chamber of Commerce information desk plus a banquet and reception area. The chamber has indicated interest in being incorporated into the facility. Ross Depner, who is on the museum building committee, said there is a possibility the new facility will be in the same spot as the old one. Once plans are firmed up, McKie estimates it will take another year-and-a-half to complete construction. "We are looking at a new building three or four years down the road." And, for Janet Love-Morrison, a long-time volunteer who handed over the managerial reins to McKie in June this year, the new building can't come soon enough. "It's time for the museum to catch up to the rest of the community," said Love-Morrison. "I think the museum has been very patient in waiting its turn to be provided a place in the community. Maybe we weren't ready before, but I think it is our turn now." She said the hiring of McKie, who has a UBC degree in the field of anthropology and museum studies, was a step in that direction. "It adds credibility." This summer, almost 1,700 people were visiting the museum per month — up almost 500 per month over last year. The board says as the number of visitors to the resort increases, so does the number interested in learning about Whistler and its history. The WRA is forecasting a 2.33 million visitors for the 1999/2000 winter season — up from the record 2.1 million in 1998/1999. Depner said Whistler rated low in WRA guest surveys when it came to culture, arts, family activities and value for money. This, he said, is a gap a new facility could go a long way towards filling. McKie said a local museum helps create community and regional identity and pride. It recognizes the community pioneers and builders and enhances local school district programming. "We're a full-on resource," said Love-Morrison. "We're also filling a huge marketing gap — just by the number of requests for images and information from the international and local media we fill... this reconfirms our importance. It is amazing what has been archived and its all been done by volunteers." The museum currently receives, on average two research requests per week and one photo reproduction request per week. Requests come from people researching and creating TV shows, articles, decorating books to local business like Intrawest which has been working on its Reunion 2000 campaign using retro-look graphics. Recent requests gave come from Germany, France, Slovakia and for an Intrawest film being produced for the Creekside information centre. Love-Morrison said Whistler has some collections the Canadian Ski Museum in Ottawa would give its eye teeth to have — like the Dave Murray collection and documents collected by Jack Shakespeare, one of the original directors of the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association. The Shakespeare collection includes boxes of 1960s winter Olympic feasibility reports and correspondence from the GODA board. "It's just a wealth of information we are so fortunate to have." The Canadian Ski Museum, dedicated to archiving the nation's ski history, has also expressed interest in partnering with the Whistler museum. The new building will likely include permanent space for national displays. "The Canadian Ski Museum is looking for a western presence," said Love-Morrison. "They would be here now if we had the space." The partnership could also open the way for some federal funding. Once building plans have been finalized the museum will be competing in its fund-raising drive with both the library and Whistler Millennium Place. The library has been named the municipality's millennium project and $2.5 million has already been set aside for a new building. Love-Morrison said there has been talk about the museum becoming a municipal facility. "Ultimately it may be the only way to survive," she said. "Ultimately it's the community's museum and you can only go so far with volunteers," said Depner.

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