Alberta’s Whyte Museum to auction off dinners and walks with Bow Valley ‘mountain legends’

Ever wanted to hang out with one of the first women to climb Mount Everest, learn about the Stoney Nakoda First Nation from an elder, or pick the brain of a mountaineer/historian?

Those passionate about Alberta’s Bow Valley and its history could soon have the chance to bid for one-on-one time with a few “mountain legends.”

The Whyte Museum in Banff is celebrating the 115th birthday of one of its founders, artist Catharine Robb Whyte, with an online auction from June 1 to 13.

Donated items that are related to the Bow Valley will be under the gavel, including prints, ceramics and books.

This watercolour painting by F.M. Bell-Smith is titled Glacier Cascade, Selkirks. The Whyte Museum says Bell-Smith was one of the first artists invited by CPR president Cornelius Van Horne to Banff to paint the Rocky Mountains and thus promote travel on the new railway. (Submitted by the Whyte Museum)

Experiences like helicopter tours and meetings with prominent Rocky Mountain personalities will also be up for grabs, says Donna Livingstone, the CEO of the Whyte Museum.

The objective of the Mountain Legends Auction is to help fund the museum’s Indigenous programming and the expansion of virtual access to its collections.

“We know it’s difficult sometimes for people to drive or come to Banff, so we wanted to make our collections as accessible as possible,” Livingstone said.

“Peter and Catharine were [also] very close friends with the [Stoney Nakoda Nation], whose traditional territory we operate under. 

“So we wanted to make sure … that Indigenous presence [is] a little more obvious at the museum.”

‘People are looking for experiences’

Artists Catharine Whyte and her husband, Peter Whyte, founded the Banff museum in 1968, and its galleries and archives are dedicated to the region.

While none of the items up for auction in June are from the museum’s own collection, all are connected to the mountains that Catharine loved, Livingston says.

“We were so touched because … in no time at all, people were donating art, works of art, mountain experiences, books — kind of quirky little items that had some kind of story to them,” Livingston said.

Those items include a signed first edition of the 1941 Emily Carr novel Klee Wyck, and paintings by artists like H.G. Glyde, Walter J. Phillips and David Thauberger.

The mountain experiences include a walk with Sharon Wood, the first North American woman to climb Mount Everest, and an evening with mountaineer Chic Scott, who wrote a book about Mount Assiniboine.

Bidders can meet with Lloyd (Buddy) Wesley, an elder with the Stoney Nakoda Nation, to learn more about his culture and language, or have dinner with Cliff and Brad Whyte, two relatives of Peter and Catherine.

“I think that people are looking for experiences. They’re looking for a way of connecting with the mountains, and having that with their friends, too — to do it in a social setting,” said Livingstone.

“But I’m not diminishing the art, because we’ve got everything from historical art to contemporary art … local art galleries have really opened up their artist stable, and people have been so generous with material.”

The auction will go live on June 1, and can be accessed online at levisonlineauctions.com

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