Five compass experiences abounded on our trip to Alberta. Jasper Park Lodge is so perfect that for guests it’s like checking into Eden. The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies at 111 Bear Street in Banff is another. During my 3rd visit, I found it newly transformed and better than ever with a new & relatively permanent exhibit, “Gateway to the Rockies”. Opened only since May 12, 2012, it’s an eclectic exhibit definitely worth a serious browse.
Peter and Catherine Whyte were talented artists. A skiing sportsman from still pioneer Banff, Peter decided to pursue a career in art and enrolled at the Boston Museum School of Fine Art where he learned cartooning and landscape and portrait painting. He also met Catherine, a socialite and Rockefeller cohort with a somewhat different background. Their marriage endured since they shared a love of travel, painting, and Banff. It says in their bios on whyte.org, “They painted outdoors within calling distance of each other.” After Peter died in 1966, indomitable Catherine went hiking in Nepal and then worked on their legacy before dying in 1979. The Whyte Museum opened in 1968 with Catherine hands-on for 11 years.
In addition to exhibiting Rocky Mountain art and local artifacts, The Whyte also oversees a cluster of 7 Heritage Homes, including the Whyte’s. Several can be toured. See “Programs and Events” on its website for details.
Executive Director Michale Lang has brought “Gateway to the Rockies” to life. Basically about colorful residents and avid tourists who have come to Banff and fallen in love, “Gateway” is about history, art, wildlife, etc. I was especially interested in its tribute to World War I & II veterans. During World War I, Canada, only about 8 million strong, lost 60,661 soldiers and 21 nurses. During World War II, 1.1 million Canadians were recruited.
Individual exhibits within the new show have names like Horses for Hire & Ascending the Heights, and I learned about Swiss Guides, avalanches, etc.
Other areas of The Whyte contain temporary exhibitions like the current & excellent “Yellowstone to Yukon: The Journey of Wildlife and Art” that closes November 15, 2012.
It was at the Whyte that I learned about a person and a project that influenced the rest of my time in the area. Parks Canada has developed 30 wildlife crossings over busy highways that have reduced wildlife/vehicle collisions by 80%. I also fell in love with Peter Dettling’s exceptional, can’t-look-away wildlife photographs like the one above. Ruth, her cousins, & I liked his work so much that we made a special trip to Terra Magica, his gallery in Canmore.