Case Study: Dawson City Museum Timeline, 1950s and earlier

Last updated: January 24, 2022

As part of the Dawson City Museum Project, I am creating timelines of the Museum’s development in relation to government policy and community action (1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s).

Museum Operations

  • 1954: The Klondike Visitors Association opens the museum on June 28 in the old firehall (Doiron 2001).

  • 1957:

    Building

    The Dawson City Museum and Historical Society formed to cash a cheque for $500 from the federal government (DCM Board Minutes, October 1959).

    • The check is used to repair the old fire hall, housing the museum (DCM Board Minutes, February 25, 1961).
  • 1959:

    Governance

    The Dawson City Museum and Historical Society incorporated, creating bylaws and a constitution (DCM Board Minutes, October 1959 and November 1959).

    Image of a news article about the museum's information in the Whitehorse Star on December 17, 1959.
    Whitehorse Star, Thursday, December 17, 1959, p. 6.

Government Policy

First Nation (Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in)

In the late 1800s, an increased number of people associated with the Klondike Gold Rush began settling the Tr’ochëk, displacing the Hän speaking Indigenous peoples. Chief Isaac moved his people to Moosehide.

Importantly, Chief Isaac also sent the gänhäk (dancing stick) to relatives in Tanacross village in Alaska. These relatives kept sacred songs and dances safe during a period of uncertainty for Hän speaking peoples from the Tr’ochëk (Council of Yukon First Nations; Stories North; Tr’ondëk Heritage).

  • 1950s: The population at Moosehide had declined and the Hän people return to the area now incorporated as Dawson City (Council of Yukon First Nations).

Federal

  • 1953: Historic Sites and Monuments Act

  • 1957: Provided a $1,000 grant to Yukon museums, which is split between the Dawson City Museum and MacBride Museum.

  • 1958: Prime Minister Diefenbaker was re-elected after a campaign that launched a northern vision (Norquay 2014).

  • 1959: Prime Minister Diefenbaker suggested Dawson City should be developed as a tourist attraction (Taylor 1990).

    The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized Dawson City (Stuart 1990).

    Due to the HSMBC recognition, Parks Canada eventually began operating the Klondike National Historic Sites in Dawson City (link)

    A meeting between the Stratford Festival and Department of Norther Affairs and National resources led to a proposal for a Dawson City Festival (Stuart 1990).

Territorial

Importantly, the museum is now housed in a historic building – the Old Territorial Administration building.

Picture of the Dawson City Museum
Dawson City Museum

Designed by Thomas Fuller in 1899 and built in 1901, the site is significant because of its association with the 1896 Gold Rush and subsequent settlement in the territory. It was the site of federal and territorial action until 1953.

  • 1953: The territorial government was transferred to Whitehorse.

  • 1959: The Yukon Territorial government offered a $300 operating and maintenance grant to registered societies (DCM 1988).

Local

  • 1950: Dawson City incorporated (Lotz 1964)

  • 1951: The City obtained Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall (then the Arctic Brotherhood Hall) and began operating it as a community hall (source).

Community Action

The 1896 Gold Rush is of particular importance to the development of both Dawson City and its museum. For more information about the Klondike Gold Rush, check out this Canadian Encyclopedia article.

When Dawson City ceased to be the capital of the Yukon (due in large part to the Alaskan Highway), attention to the tourism industry increased. Members of the community felt they had to draw tourists to survive (Stuart 1990).

  • 1952: The Klondike Tourist Bureau (later, the Klondike Visitors Association) formed (English 1997).

  • 1958: The Klondike Tourist Bureau received a grant from the Yukon Visitors Association to fix up local attractions (Stuart 1990).

  • 1959: The Klondike Tourist Bureau incorporated (Stuart 1990).

    The Museum’s incorporation led to a surge in artifact donations from community members (DCM 1988).

Questions

Do you know of any important milestones that are missing?

Would any of the entries benefit from more information or links to additional resources?

References

Where possible, I have linked to sources. The following are references that are not currently available online:

Dawson City Museum & Historical Society. 1988. “1988 DCM History.” Box 14. Dawson City Museum Corporate Documents. Dawson City Museum Archives, Dawson City. 

Taylor, C.J. 1990. Negotiating the past: The making of Canada’s National Historic Parks and Sites. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

11 thoughts on “Case Study: Dawson City Museum Timeline, 1950s and earlier

  1. In your research, do you recall what year the term “Paris of the North” was first used in publication?

Leave a Reply to MJ Kirchhoff Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: