Ten Things We Learned Working at the Whyte Museum in Banff National Park
Updated: Oct 25
By the Whyte Museum Summer 2023 Interpreters, Abi Franceschetti, Athena Ivison, Kiera Bandy, Denver Graling, and Wendy Bradley
For the summer of 2023, the busiest in Banff’s history, the five of us worked as interpreters to engage with visitors and share what the Whyte Museum has to offer.
Here are ten things we learned this summer at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies!
1. As Interpreters, we answer more than history questions!
As guides, we have not only answered questions about the history of Banff, but also about the locations of the nearest cool shops and bus stops.
We’ve found that the essential skill required in answering questions is the ability to care and inquire about the person’s specific needs. Asking about exactly what a visitor is looking for can help us give them advice that will feel genuinely helpful for them.
2. Everything has a story.
Three guides—Athena, Abi, and Kiera—had the opportunity to work in the curatorial and archives departments. In curatorial, Athena and Kiera would come across objects that appeared quite ordinary. However, they learned that any object can have its own unique and interesting history! Through her time organizing news files, info files, and bio files, Abi also encountered interesting documents and papers in the archives. Every item (whether big or small) holds meaning. Furthermore, the meaning of many objects change depending on who you ask or talk to.
3. History evokes shared memories.
One of the reveals in our heritage homes on site is an orange linoleum floor. This reveal often evokes a response: “Oh, I remember this!” It’s wonderful how historical places and artifacts can bring back memories and create shared experiences for people.
4. The lines will be memorized!
At the beginning of our roles, we received several scripts to be memorized come tour season. This
was certainly intimidating, as we all wanted to do well! However, with plenty of practice and repetition, all five of us graduated from training and began delivering tours. The hard work paid off, and we felt great satisfaction in engaging with guests from all over the world.
5. There’s always more to learn.
No matter how many times we’ve run through our tours and looked over the information available, we’ll always encounter people who ask new and challenging questions. Being an interpreter requires a continual gathering of information to become experts on local history!
6. History requires multiple perspectives.
History is made by people interacting with each other and the world around them. As a result, understanding the different historical, cultural, environmental, political, and social threads woven into the makeup of Banff requires learning about as many perspectives as possible.
Being open and receptive to learning about different perspectives and views that people have had throughout history has been an important foundation to have while in this role.
7. Every tour is a new experience for visitors.
Although the information shared with visitors may seem repetitive to a guide delivering a tour for the 100th time, our visitors have never heard what we are telling them! Seeing visitors’ first reactions can bring a fresh perspective to the tours we run every day. The looks of mesmerization and chuckles that come from engaged visitors truly are priceless moments.
8. Visitors are (mostly) confused by Banff’s garbage receptacles.
One fun tidbit we find amusing is that no matter how long we’re here, there will always be visitors confused by the bear-proof garbage cans—both here in the Museum on display or around town! Very understandable, as they are a unique design and solution for circumventing a compelling challenge of wildlife and safety around garbage.
9. There isn’t enough time to do it all.
For a few of us, this summer was our first time visiting Banff and we wanted to do it all! The reality is we will never be able to do everything, but we can enjoy and appreciate the adventures we do get to experience.
10. Museums are enjoyable for all ages!
We heard responses from both kids and adults that they enjoyed the museum and learned something new while visiting. All kinds of people enjoy learning about local and personal history, and that is something that interpreters can foster with visitors of all ages.
We wanted to thank the Whyte Museum for giving us the opportunity to contribute to such an amazing organization. We’re grateful for the chance to work with the museum guests, to support public education in Banff, and to bring every visitor the best experience possible. We’ve learned far more than just a few fun facts, and hope that the people we spoke to learned something too!