Auction fundraiser supporting Banff's Whyte Museum

As a way of celebrating the 115th birthday of its late founder, Catharine Robb Whyte on June 13, the Whyte Museum has decided to expand virtual access to its collections and enhance Indigenous programming.

But to do that, funding will be needed.

Donna Livingstone is the CEO of the museum and after reaching out to the artist community, she was overwhelmed with support.

A total of 177 items were donated to the cause, with the majority coming from artists and organizations across Alberta.

"I think Catherine would get a big kick out of this," said Livingstone. "She was a very strong supporter of emerging artists, she was an artist herself, but I think she would look at the list and look at the people that are coming from all over North America and go, 'Oh, these are my friends.' As we are looking at the list and getting excited about it, I think this would be a wonderful moment for her."

The auction runs from June 1 to 13 and is being presented online courtesy of Levis Fine Art Auctions.

Bidders can choose between objects with a strong connection to the Bow Valley, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, folk art, ceramics, and memorable mountain experiences.

Featured items include a number of rare objects such as a signed first-edition book by Emily Carr and paintings by H.G. Glyde, Walter J. Phillips, David Thauberger, Michael Cameron, Chris Flodberg, and many more.

"We've had bids on 90 per cent," said Doug Levis, owner of Levis Fine Art Auctions. "But I think there will be a lot of activity between now and the closing on Sunday which just happens to be Catherine Whyte's birthday."

Levis says people all over North America are interested in what's up for grabs. So far upward of $70,000 has been raised but there are still three more days of bidding. Everything raised will go to the museum.

"It's a good cause and we've said OK, there's going to be no buyer's premium," said Levis. "You pay $10,000 on the item, there's no buyer's premium, there is of course the appropriate taxes."

Livingstone says the money will be put to good use digitizing material in its archives to be viewed by virtual visitors.

"Peter (Whyte) and Catherine were very close friends with the Stoney Nakoda," said Livingstone. "And we've really revived that relationship and looking at some new programming involving them directly."

Chris Green is a bladesmith who makes functional art. He's a big supporter of museums and wanted to donate something to help the Whyte Museum.

"I looked at some old photographs of mountain men circa 1850s," said Green. "One of the fellows was all in buck skin and had this big bandolier kind of thing on his body and had this massive knife sticking out of the back and I thought that's perfect, I'll just do my take on what was possibly in that fellow's sheath."

Green researched camping knives of that period and came up with something he called a 'knatchet', a combination knife and hatchet.

"It had to be able to do everything from clear bush, to prepare the meal, to shave, anything else you could throw at it," said Green. "It had to be big, it had to be substantial, it also had to have a bit of style to it too."

See Green's knife along with all the other items up for auction online