As part of my pre-interview reflections for the Dawson City Museum (DCM) Project, this post considers:
Like the posts on ideas and institutions, this post is a preliminary reflection that will evolved as I do interviews. In particular, I suspect there are more local networks that I have not adequately considered and/or networks of relevance related to community museums’ roles as tourist institutions in Yukon.
I have organized this post in terms of jurisdiction.
Instead of considering the federal government exclusively, I have decided to incorporate the idea of nation to nation in my research. From now on, I will consider both the “Canadian government” and First Nations as national jurisdictions.
Yukon First Nations
First Nations’ Cultural Centers (such as, the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre in what is now Dawson City) receive funding under the Yukon Government’s museum operational funding program. However, these institutions are distinct from community museums.
The differences begin with the distinct settler-based and Yukon First Nations’ conceptions of heritage. A Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in document states:
I do not know how the Cultural Centers began receiving funding under the museum program (yet). However, Umbrella Final Agreement (1993) mandated a more equitable distribution of Yukon Government program dollars related to heritage resource management. The agreement states:
Considering the Umbrella Agreement, I believe advocacy around heritage resource management is likely of significance to community museum policy development.
However, in a post on interest groups and advocacy, I am struggling with who and what I should consider here. I think the problem is that I should have included a section titled “First Nations – Territorial” in my post on institutions. The intersections between First Nations and the territorial government are relevant. As such, moving forward, I will more actively consider these intersections.
In terms of advocacy groups of interest to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in or Yukon First Nation heritage resource management more broadly, I don’t know where to look.
Are there advocacy groups at this level that I should consider? Since I am consider a settler institution, what is the relevance of advocacy to this jurisdiction? Moving forward, this is something I will be asking in interviews (when appropriate).
When I interviewed the Canadian Museums Association’s (CMA) Executive Director (now retired) as part of my PhD research in 2018, he emphasized the significance of the Association’s advocacy role.
Reflecting the importance of that role, the CMA has a webpage (very helpfully) titled “advocacy,” which draws attention to the issues they have identified as significant. These issues include:
- Copyright legislation revisions
- Museums’ need for pandemic relief specifically and increased federal funding more broadly
- National museum policy – that is, the lack of a current articulated museum policy for non-national museums. The last policy is from 1990. It is out of date, making references to a department that no longer exists and promises that were not kept.
Advocacy for the development of a renewed national museum policy is of particular importance and has been a component of the CMA’s advocacy work for about 20 years.
National – Territorial
First Nation – Territorial
I suspect the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association will become relevant here. However, at the moment, I do not know and cannot find anything of relevance online.
Federal – Territorial
The territorial museum association is the Yukon Historical and Museums Association (YHMA or, confusingly, Heritage Yukon on their website). Importantly, the subnational associations are often involved in the national association’s advocacy. For example, the YHMA’s name is on a CMA news release (here) asking for a review of national museum policy, increased funding, and simplified applications for small museums.
There is also collaboration between subnational associations. For example, the YHMA made a joint submission (here) with the BC Museums Association (BCMA) for the federal budget consultations. Their concerns included:
- Pandemic relief
- Increased federal funding
- A national museums policy that complies with UNDRIP
Yukon had its most recent territorial election in 2021. I cannot find an advocacy paper from the YHMA for the election. However, they asked the parties questions about heritage and posted the answers (here). The questions suggest that the YHMA concerns are:
- Territorial policy. As seen at the federal level, the existing museum policy is from 89/90 and is outdated.
- Museums’ need for pandemic relief and increased funding.
- Property taxes as a barrier for some museums
- The need for government to collaborate with museums on related issues
I was a little surprised at the limited about of advocacy or training information for museums on the YHMA website. My surprise may be unfair and a function of having studied the Ontario Museum Association (OMA) so recently. The OMA is an association for a subnational region with more museums, meaning it has more capacity.
That being said, it is also possible the YHMA functions like a historical society with a museums committee rather than a museums association. I am currently reading the YHMA newsletters from the late 70s to the 90s and these documents remind me of the Ontario Historical Society’s (OHS) work. The OHS has a museums committee and does work to support its members who are museums. However, both the YHMA and OHS have a broad focus and expend efforts on issues like cemetery preservation and circulating research on the history of the region. The broad focus means their limited capacity is not always devoted to museum issues. I am excited to learn more and expand on this idea as I do research.
The Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) seems to be a significant interest group for the tourism sector at a local level. In Dawson City, heritage organizations (e.g., Parks Canada, the DCM) are extremely important members of this sector (e.g., the DCM Executive Director is also a member of the KVA Board). However, I have not yet found relevant advocacy documents to use in my analysis.
This points to broader research gaps that I hope to fill – that is, local level advocacy work and work related to museums as tourist organizations.
Museums (or, I should say, their associations) want a new museum policy at both the national and territorial level. Another common concern includes the need for more money (in normal times and covid times).
What interest groups should I consider in addition to museum associations?
My next question is part of a broader area of confusion for me. People in the cultural sector often ask for an articulated and comprehensive policy document. However, I am not convinced that policy articulations – that is, a document called “museum policy” or “cultural policy” – will actually lead to more secure or increased support for a few reasons:
- Since the 1990s, policy articulations for culture have led to long term commitments as financial investment is needed in implementation. For example, the 1990 federal community museum policy promised increases to the Museums Assistance Program. There were cuts to the program in the mid 90s and the program offers less support now than it did in the 70s. Here is a statement from the CMA on the issue:
- In the 21st century (and the 90s to some extent), cultural policy articulations within what is now known as Canada are often pretty vague. They aim to articulate a broader direction without necessarily institutionalizing the specific actions and programs that will enact the policy. Ontario’s heritage policy review (late 80s and early 90s) and Cultural Strategy are both examples.
In my opinion, the creation of programs and their annual budgets (cuts or increases) create more significant changes than policy documents (which, as seen in Ontario, the next party in power can ignore). Here is an example of what I mean:
- The national museum policy from the 1970s was originally announced in a speech. Then, the policy of democratization and decentralization was articulated with a commitment to specific actions, such as:
- Funding that continues today (though in a reduced capacity) through MAP
- The establishment of the Canadian Conservation Institution, which still exists.
- The establishment of the Canadian Heritage Information Network’s predecessor (the national inventory project).
- Yukon operational funding for museums increased in 2003-2004, 2007-2008, and then over three years started in 2015. To my knowledge, the last territorial policy document was a museum strategy in 2005 and anytime funding for the program increases it has not gone down.
So, I am genuinely curious. Why do these interest groups pursue policy articulations so persistently?
For example, museum support is historical tied to tourism funding in Yukon. Why not lean into that? I assume an increase in operational funding = the most helpful thing the Yukon government could do for community museums, which would lead to a better product that supports tourism and encourages tourists to stay in Yukon longer.
What do you think? Is arguing for a policy an effective approach?
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