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From Strangers to Storytellers

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

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In the summer of 1930, newlywed Catharine Robb Whyte arrived in Banff to begin a new chapter of her life. Trading sailing for skiing, she took on the challenge of integrating herself into a lifestyle and community completely unknown to her. However, after spending a lifetime in Banff she had become one of the foremost ambassadors of the history and culture of this area.

Ninety years after Catharine first stepped foot here, we arrived in a Banff that was much-changed, but still retained the same alluring essence. Like Catharine, we knew little of the stories these mountains had to offer; but also like Catharine, we were eager to integrate ourselves into our new community, both in and out of the museum.

While at the Whyte, we studied hard, familiarizing ourselves with Banff’s history and gaining a better sense of the interconnected stories that make up Banff’s past. Outside in the park, we continued our education, this time through hiking, biking, and visiting other locations such as the Luxton Historic House Museum and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

Seventeen weeks later, we understood that knowledge and education is more than opening up a book. It’s both researching the experiences of others, and making our own memories. It’s easier to appreciate Peter Whyte’s admiration for Mount Rundle after summiting it yourself. It’s easier to appreciate J. B. Harkin’s conservation work after a close encounter with a grizzly bear. And it’s easier to understand why Catharine fell in love with the Bow Valley, when you’re surveying it from the top of Tunnel Mountain.

Peter Whyte (1905-1966, Canadian), Banff from Tunnel Mountain, 1933, oil on canvas, 27.5 x 35 cm, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, WyP.01.055

This knowledge helped us educate visitors to the Museum not only about Banff’s past, but the influence of that past on the present. Our goal as Interpreters is to offer people an understanding of Banff that they will take with them after they leave. For us, knowledge is not a Monday to Friday, nine-to-five activity, and we wanted our visitors to share that experience with us. Whether that was describing a person or place, concept or personal experience, the goal remained the same: to tell stories that visitors will remember in the already unforgettable landscape that is Banff National Park.

Bow Valley from Norquay, [1903-1942], Byron Harmon (Banff, AB), Why Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Byron Harmon fonds (V263/NA-4396)

Thank you for reading!

Avril, Aidan, Patrick, Clémence and Jon

a.k.a. The Guardians of the Galleries

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