Students getting a handle on Whistler history 

More than 2,000 artifacts being catalogued, preserved and entered into database

Deep in the bowels of the Telus Conference Centre, Whistler’s history is being catalogued.

At least, that part of Whistler’s history that is included in the Whistler Museum and Archives’ collection. And you might be surprised at the size of the collection.

Three students, project manager Amy Tucker and collections co-ordinators Klara Manhal and Melissa Larkin, have spent the last six weeks documenting, cataloguing and packing into archival storage containers the approximately 2,000 unprocessed pieces in the museum’s collection. Pioneer artifacts from the Rainbow Lodge, logging tools, more than 100 pairs of skis and various medals, bibs and hats are in the collection.

“We’re really enjoying it,” Larkin said of the project. “We’re privy to (the collection) but others don’t get to experience it.”

The museum began collecting artifacts in 1986, with a focus on the pioneer history of the region. But the museum has never had the room to display more than a small fraction of its collection. Many of the artifacts were stuffed into a 12x12 foot basement, with incomplete documentation, and left there for a decade or more.

Through a partnership with the municipality, the museum secured a new storage space for the entire collection in the conference centre. All the pieces were moved to the site in July 2005.

Now, with a grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Museum Assistance Program covering half the students’ wages, the collection is being properly documented and preserved. The museum’s collection inventory is being updated, a digital record of each object is being created, and all information will be entered into the museum’s collections management database.

The project will allow museum staff and volunteers to gain intellectual and physical control of the collection. In turn, this will allow for better access to the collection, help the museum better understand its exhibit and storage needs, and help determine how the collection can be best utilized to support community programs.

In addition to helping Whistler rediscover some of its past, the three-month project has brought together three students from across the country who now share Whistler history as a common bond. Larkin, a museum studies student from Powell River, said understanding the collection should help in the push for a new Whistler museum.

Tucker, a heritage resources student who came from Newfoundland for the project, has been intrigued by some of the gadgets unearthed in the pioneer collection.

And Manhal, a fine arts student from Pemberton, is hoping residents may be able to help identify some of the pieces.

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