THE WHYTE MUSEUM OF THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
The Peter and Catharine Whyte Foundation operates the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies and owns and manages several commercial properties in the town of Banff. The museum features three art galleries, a heritage gallery, an archival research room, and a reading area. In addition to the Museum and the Archives, the Whyte also owns two fully furnished historic houses, four heritage log cabins and an active bed-and-breakfast facility. Our popular book shop focuses on mountain books. Our staff of 20 is guided by a volunteer board of ten directors. Annual attendance is approximately 40,000.
The founding of the Whyte is a love story. Peter Whyte, a Banff artist and guide, went to the Boston Museum of Art School where he met Catharine Robb, the daughter of a wealthy Massachusetts family. They fell in love, married, and settled in Banff where they spent the rest of their lives painting the landscape they loved so well and creating a beautiful museum and archives.
Today, the Whyte is a popular gathering place for mountain stories, exhibitions, films, lectures, and programs that engage visitors and locals with the evolving history of this unique area. The Archives is an outstanding source for research, contributing new knowledge to environmental issues and cultural understanding.
Our Archives and Special Collections hold over 800 archival fonds and collections that represent the culture, history, and landscape of the Canadian Rocky Mountains
Archival holdings include more than 700,000 photographs, and over 1500 sound recordings, motion pictures, and videos. Dating from the mid-19th century to the 21st century, these records document not only the people who created them, but also the broader environmental, social, political, and economic history of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The Archives Library includes over 8500 books, rare maps, periodicals, films, clipping files, and local newspapers which primarily focus on the human and natural history of the Canadian Rockies. It is also the custodian of the Alpine Club of Canada Library, which contains over 4000 books and periodicals documenting the mountain cultures of the world from the mid-1600s to current.
The Whyte Museum’s art collection embodies the artistic spirit and vision of our founders Peter and Catharine. The collection includes over 10,000 items spanning the early 1800s to the present day. Featured are drawings, paintings, prints, and sculptures by celebrated local, regional, national, and international artists who have been captivated by the local landscapes.
The Heritage collection includes artifacts that help to convey the stories of the numerous residents of and visitors to the town of Banff and area. Over time the region has become a destination for adventurers, artists, climbers, explorers, guides and outfitters, hikers, immigrants, Indigenous Peoples, and sports enthusiasts. Items from these individuals acquaint us with the past while simultaneously connecting us with the present.
During the pandemic, our hours were reduced and we focused on using digital resources to connect people with mountain conversations. Canadian mountaineer Chic Scott, an acclaimed author and historian, has created a series of in-person Fireside Chats which are also available online. This series of in-depth interviews with wardens, backcountry lodge owners, climbers, and artists provide thoughtful and deeply personal insight into the people who have shaped and were shaped by mountain culture in this area.
We continue to expand our digital access to all of our collections, recognizing that travel is expensive and not sustainable. We provide both in-person talks and online versions.
The Whyte has a long association with Indigenous groups in the area, particularly the Stoney Nakoda peoples who were close friends with our founders. We have hired an Indigenous Relations Manager and have initiated several collaborative projects to nurture relationships with local Indigenous groups.
CONNECTION TO NATURE
The Whyte is now repositioning itself to provide meaningful connections to nature through art, history and experiences. All of our collections – paintings, photographs, Indigenous stories, hiking poles – reflect a passion and deep connection to nature over thousands of years.
We also recognize that the more people experience nature and observe the changes taking place because of climate change, the more they will want to take responsibility for those changes. Our exhibition schedule reflects this connection to nature.