Whistler’s history finds a new home 

A reinvented Whistler Museum reopens to the public after almost two years of closure; unveils new exhibit on community’s Olympic journey


What: Whistler Museum Grand Opening

When: Thursday, Dec. 17, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: 4333 Main St. (behind library)

Cost: Free! (donations appreciated)

Whistler is a strange place - "unique" if you want to be polite. It has a small town vibe coupled with the infrastructure of a big city, and these days everyone is pretty caught up in the craziness surrounding the Olympic Games.

The community has changed radically since Myrtle and Alex Philip bought land on Alta Lake in 1913 and opened the Rainbow Lodge a year later. But few people who call Whistler home today actually know the real history of the town - a fact that hasn't been helped much by the two-year closure of the museum.

All of that is about to change as the revamped Whistler Museum is reopened to the public next week, unveiling the town's rich, quirky history to long-time locals, fresh-off-the-boat seasonal workers and international tourists alike.

John Hetherington is president of the Whistler Museum and Archives Society. He got involved with the museum about a year and a half ago, but has been a part of the community's history. He's witnessed the evolution of the town since moving here in 1967, just the third season that Whistler Mountain was open for skiing. He's seen the community grow from a town of 150 people to become home to almost 10,000 year-round residents and another 2 million visitors. In that time, Whistler definitely experienced its share of growing pains. Hetherington and the rest of the folks at the Whistler Museum wanted to make sure they shared the real history of the 2010 Olympic town - the good, the bad, and the ugly - with the world.

On Monday morning, the museum's new home - the former library, which is made from four merged trailer units - was still under construction, but the bones of the building are firmly in place. And with a bit of imagination, it's easy to visualize where the various exhibits will go. The facility will feature a Hall of Characters, a natural history area (complete with taxidermy), a replica of Rainbow Lodge, which will include the Myrtle and Alex Philip story. There will be a fireplace area for storytelling in one corner, a small video room in the next and an entire section dedicated to the Olympics.

The original Whistler Museum was founded in 1986 by Florence Petersen and was built around the Rainbow Lodge/Myrtle Philip era.

"That was okay for its time, but it wasn't a broad enough scope to base a community museum on," Hetherington said.

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