Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies auction to celebrate namesake and raise funds for programs


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To help celebrate what would have been Catharine Robb Whyte’s 115th birthday, an online auction titled “Mountain Legends” featuring an eclectic collection of artwork and artifacts celebrating mountain culture will begin. to accept submissions on June 1.

The call for tenders will run until June 13, Whyte’s birthday, to raise funds to help the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockie expand virtual access to its extensive collection and improve the Aboriginal programming.

Although the objects donated are obviously not from the actual collection of the museum, they have a similar spirit. There is a first edition book signed by Emily Carr, the Canadian artist who drew inspiration from Indigenous culture. There is a watercolor by FM Bell-Smith, a 19th century British artist who painted the Rocky Mountains. There’s a woodcut of the Banff Springs Hotel by Walter J. Phillips and a playful photo diorama by Winnipeg artist Diana Thorneycroft that places Superman on horseback against the backdrop of the Rockies.

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There’s also a more than lightly used vintage sink from Twin Falls Lodge, a National Historic Site in the Upper Yoho Valley of British Columbia.

“We don’t know for sure, but the sink in Twin Falls may have been used by Lawren Harris on his honeymoon there,” says Donna Livingstone, CEO of the Whyte Museum.

The idea of ​​expanding the digital side of things is to allow potential visitors to access the museum’s collection before their visit, says Livingstone.

Donna Livingstone, Executive Director of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.  Courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Donna Livingstone, Executive Director of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies Photo by Silckerodt Photography /Photograph by Silckerodt

“A lot of people just want to sample before they come,” she says. “So we want to make sure that our collections are available and searchable online so you can see the variety. You might not want to come all day, but there might be something about Jimmy Simpson that you’re crazy about. We can link not only with our art collection and some of his paintings, but also his books, diaries, we have some audio recordings of his words. It is encouraging personal learning or exploration if you want to discover something on your own. “

About four million visitors came to Banff each year. Most come to see the sites and experience nature in some way. Livingstone says the museum’s COVID-imposed downtime provided an opportunity to reflect on the Whyte Museum and its place in the community.

“Every photograph, every Hans Gmoser film from the ’70s, every painting we have is about people who connect with nature and truly appreciate it,” she says. “We can become a showcase for this and an introduction for people: just give them the tools to look at the world around them with fresh eyes.

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A first signed edition of Klee Wyck by Emily Carr.  Courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.
A first signed edition of Klee Wyck by Emily Carr. Courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. jpg

Indigenous traditions have always been a part of the history of the Canadian Rockies. Peter and Catharine Whyte, who founded the museum in 1968, had a close relationship with the Stoney Nakoda people of the Bow Valley.

The museum continues to research the region’s traditional trade routes, among other initiatives.

“Some of the people involved in this, the elders, are actually older people,” says Livingstone. “So we make sure, as much as possible with their comfort level, that we can capture some of these oral histories, so we’re working on that. I think there are about five Elders who knew Peter and Catharine quite well, so we’re capturing their stories as well.

The museum does not have a fundraising target for the auction. Livingstone says the community appears to be responding to the campaign as a fitting celebration for Catharine Robb Whyte, who died in 1979.

“It’s her birthday and we wanted to recognize her and this great contribution and use it as a way to celebrate,” says Livingstone. “She is a highly regarded figure in this field. We have no idea what we’re going to bring, but it’s been exciting.

Levis Fine Arts Auctions will present the Mountain Legends auction from June 1 to 13. Visit levisauctions.com

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