Museum Musings: The Whistler Question’s archive photos go digital

The Whistler Museum and Archives is celebrating The Whistler Question’s 40th birthday in style: what better present could we give than making nearly 35,000 photographs from the Whistler Question’s archival collection available online for the public to peruse?

When the collection’s digitization is complete, anyone with an Internet connection will be able to explore this town’s sporting events, parades, Village construction projects, road collisions, festivals and portraits of locals from the years 1978-1985. Corresponding captions that originally accompanied the photos in each week’s published newspapers will tell the story of Whistler’s transitional years and the day-to-day lives of the people who lived here at the time, all on one snazzy website.

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Our archives recently received generous funding from UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre to digitize The Question’s negatives. The project will aim to preserve and share snapshots taken for every week’s newspaper spanning from 1978-1985. These stunning black and white 35mm negatives chronicle such poignant events in Whistler’s history — Village construction, the opening of Blackcomb, 1982 Alpine Skiing World Cup, to name a few. We felt this collection would not only be of the most use to the community, but also the most fun to explore in its entirety online.

The Question’s negatives were donated to our institution in 1991. When archival documents are donated to the museum, they go through quite the process before we are able to share them with the public. The entire collection must be labelled with an accession number, put into preserver sleeves safe for photographs, and then entered into our online database with full descriptions. It is at this point we are able to make high-quality scans of the photographs.

Once the collection is scanned, we will upload it to our photo-hosting website, Smugmug (www.whistlermuseum.smugmug.com), so that the public can explore and even purchase the photos for personal use. The Whistler Question collection will join several collections of already digitized material, including the Whistler Mountain collection, the Myrtle Philip collection, the George Benjamin collection, among several others.

We have finally begun scanning, slowly bringing Whistler’s history into the digital world. The project is slated to take roughly six months, at the end of which we hope to present to you the massive Question collection in all its glory, online.

Happy Birthday, Whistler Question — here’s to many more!

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