Case Study: Dawson City Museum Timeline, 1960s

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

  • 1960:

    The Museum building (the old fire hall) was destroyed by fire.

    Old Dawson City Museum on Fire, June 5, 1960 (Artist: Roy McLeod; Dawson City Museum Archive 1993.3.11)

    The Museum began searching for a new space, asking to occupy the Old Territorial Administration Building as early as December 1960 (Haldenby 1960).

  • 1961:


    The Dawson City Museum and Historical Society struggled to find a new building to house the museum.


    Members of the Dawson City Museum and others made public appeals for objects to rebuild the Museum’s collections. These appeals asked specifically for objects from the Klondike Gold Rush (e.g., the Tear Sheet vol. 18 no. 5):

    Found in: 1.1.4: Correspondence w secretary treasurer March 1958 to October 1960. Box 1. DCM.

    A Klondike Mines Locomotive was donated to the Museum. It weighed 30 tonnes and was transported across the River. Click here to listen to an interview about that experience.

  • 1962:


    The Museum opened in the Old Territorial Administration Building in time for the 1962 Gold Rush Festival.

    Colour view of the Old Territorial Administration Building. This building currently houses the Dawson City Museum as well as offices for the Justice department and Renewable Resources.
    Old Territorial Administration Building, May 1976 (Artist: Pam Elton; Dawson City Museum Archives 2006.4.21)


    An individual from the National Museum of Canada (Gaston Tessler) spent a week cataloguing the collection. He cleaned, organized and homogenized the space (Warner 1962, 1963).

    Visitors engaged with the objects, providing more information or services. For example, someone offered to repair the harmonium. Another individual opened a “metal affair” to fit pieces together and demonstrate that it was a peanut-vending machine (Warner 1962, 1963).


    The Museum hosted traveling exhibitions (DCM Board Meeting Minutes, May 23, 1962; Warner 1963):

    • Replicas of the Crown Jewels.
    • Royal North West Mounted Police and the chase of the Mad Trapper of Rat River.
    • Hudson’s Bay Pictures.

    There were also displays of the museum artifacts, such as a broken harmonium, harness-maker’s vise, an old map of the Yukon.

    Picture of a news article about exhibits arrive for the Dawson festival
    Whitehorse Star, Thursday, June 14, 1962, p. 32.

    Other content included:

    • a collection of prints from the national archives
    • a display of old keys and machinery from the Canadian National Telegraph.

    Fundraising (earned revenues)

    The Museum sold what would now be called Inuit prints (DCM 1962).


    Victoria Faulkner (who recently retired from the Department of Northern Affairs) acted as Curator for the summer.

  • 1963:

    Picture of an article about the work of the Dawson City museum, titled Dawson Museum Looks Ahead
    Whitehorse Daily Star, Monday, February 25th 1963, p. 12


    The Museum received the original staking post from the Carmack’s claim.


    The Museum had displays of cabin interiors (Dawson City Museum Board Meeting Minutes, February 13, 1963).

  • 1964:


    The Museum installed a furnace and purchased a blacksmith shop (Warner 1964).


    The Dawson City Museum received funding from a private foundation to clean and paint three engines.

    Picture of an article about a 400 dollar grant to the museum
    Whitehorse Daily Star, Monday, May 25, 1964, p. 21

    “Old-timers” (a term used to discuss miners) estates were given to the Museum (Warner 1964).

    There was a deep freeze that resulted in a lot of birds dying. Residents with freezers kept the birds and then a taxidermist in Whitehorse mounted them for the Museum (Warner 1964).

    Warner (1964) described other acquisitions, such as old movie film and maps. Importantly, Indigenous baskets and other works were loaned to the Museum.


    The Museum acquired the contents of Harry Leamon’s cabin on Bonanza Creek and exhibited the content to represent a miner’s cabin.


    We begin to see Museum records on research request.

  • 1966:

    Exhibitions (Board Meeting Minutes, March 4, 1966)

    The Museum has 970 objects on display (This is an assumption. The Minutes actually say they have 970 “exhibitions”).

  • 1967:


    The Museum had 1,000 objects on display (This is an assumption. The Minutes actually say they have 1,000 “exhibitions”- Board Meeting Minutes, January 26, 1967).

  • 1968:


    A failed fire inspection report threatened the Museum’s existence (see various letters in 1.1.38: Correspondence 1968. Box 1. Dawson City Museum).

Government Policy

First Nation (Tr’ondëk Hwëchin)

In 1960, the federal government granted First Nations people the right to vote in federal elections without losing treaty status. The Yukon Council of First Nations comments on the significance of this change:

A new generation emerged, barely intact from the brutality of the mission schools, and began a movement to fight oppression, provide vision and hope, and to gain some rights for the generations to come.



  • 1960:

    National Historic Sites

    A person from the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resource’s National Historic Sites Branch arrives in Dawson to conduct a study of older buildings (Stuart 1990).

    The Keno, which was donated to the Canadian Government in 1959, made its last voyage on the Yukon River to Dawson City.

    Northern Administration

    The Northern Affairs and National Resources’ Northern Administration Branch provided the Dawson City Museum with a 500$ grant for active societies (Collins 1960).

  • 1961:

    National Historic Sites

    The National Historic Sites Branch acquires the Palace Grand Theatre (Stuart 1990), which the Klondike Visitors Association had purchased then turned over (plaque below).

  • 1962:

    National Historic Sites Branch

    The National Historic Sites Branch rebuilt and reopened the Palace Grand Theatre in time for the Gold Rush Festival.

    Foxy, Palace Grand Theatre, August 18, 1962 (Canadian Photo Archive; Dawson City Museum Archives 1984.241.2)

    The Branch commissioned historical research on the Gold Rush and Dawson buildings, which became important later when the federal government began to acquire additional sites and offer interpretation in Dawson.

    National Museums

    A zoologist and two student assistants from the National Museum of Canada were in Dawson City for the summer (Lotz 1964).

    A cataloguer from the National Museum of Canada spent a week at the museum cataloguing (Warner 1963). The cataloguer was likely one of the Zoologist’s student assistants. Warner (1962) notes Phil Youngman from the National Museum in Ottawa (He was a mammalogist, meaning he is likely the zoologist Lotz described) asked if his cataloguer could assist the museum.

  • 1963:

    Explicit Cultural Policy

    Secretary of State becomes responsible for culture.

  • Mid 60s:

    National Historic Sites

    National Historic Sites had built the theatre and repaired the Keno, but did not participate in the Gold Rush Festival or operate the sites. They leased the sites to the Klondike Visitors Association for tourism related activity while the Mining Recorder acted as the Historic Sites agent in the area. He had limited authority and recommended a full time employee for the historic sites (Stuart 1990).

  • 1965:

    Explicit Cultural Policy

    The House of Commons established a Standing Committee on Culture.

    The Secretary of State recommended a national cultural policy.

  • 1966: Federal officials traveled to Dawson and Recommend the establishment of positions in Yukon (Stuart 1990).

  • 1967:

    Explicit Cultural Policy

    It was the Canadian Centennial year. The Federal Government invested in the celebration of the centennial.

    National Historic Sites

    The National Historic Sites Branch announced they would determine how their structures would be used.

    The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada held its annual meeting in Dawson, consulting community organizations. The Board recommended acquiring material relating to the Gold Rush, acquiring and preserving more building, the commemoration of gold mining, and the commemoration of Yukon transportation.

    The federal government began acquiring sites, which would become part of the Klondike National Historic Sites (Stuart 1990).

    For Dawson, the price of survival was the loss of autonomy. Paid for and developed from the outside by the Canadian taxpayer, Dawson depended upon external decisions for its future development. 

    Stuart 1990, 128

    National Museums

    The National Museums of Museum of Canada Act passed, creating the National Museums Corporation to run the national museums.

  • 1968:

    National Historic Sites

    The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development tabled the first policy statement on national historic sites at the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (Parks Canada 1976).


    The Government amended to Criminal Code to allow the federal and provincial governments to run lotteries, which influences future territorial funding programs that museums can access.

  • 1969:


    The Official Languages Act passed, which influenced future museum funding from the federal government with bilingualism requirements for museums.


  • 1961: The Yukon Territorial Council discussed a territorial museum grant program (source).

  • 1962: The Travel and Publicity Branch was established as a two person branch (Graham 1972).

  • 1968: The Yukon Territorial Council discussed the procedures around existing grants. At this time, grants are being made to organizations, like Museum Societies, as special contributory grants without a policy (source).

    Yukon Historic Sites and Monuments Board created with the Historic Sites and Monuments Ordinance.


  • 1967: The City renamed the Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall / Arctic Brotherhood Hall the Centennial Hall in honor of the Canadian centennial (source).

Community Action

  • 1960: The Dawson City Festival Foundation was established.

  • 1962: The Dawson City Festival Foundation organized the Gold Rush Festival with government assistance and the active participation of community organizations. The Klondike Visitors Association was particularly important.

    The festival drew attention to the need for better infrastructure to attract tourists, such as improved accommodations (Lotz 1964).

    Portable Motel Units Used During Gold Rush Festival, 1962 (Artists: Ed and Star Jones; Dawson City Museum Archive 1998.22. 166)
  • 1963: The Klondike Visitor’s Association’s Gaslight Follies begin performing at the Palace Grand (source).

    Program from the 1969 season (from the Jewish Museum Archives)
  • 1966: The Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation closed.


Do you know of any important milestones that are missing?

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


Where possible, sources are hyperlinked in text or included as pictures. Additional sources include:

Collins, F.H. 1960, November 24. Letter to the Dawson City Museum and Historical Society Secretary-Treasurer. 1.1.4: Correspondence. Box 1. Dawson City Museum Archives.

DCM. 1962, September 4. Museum Register. 1.1.10 correspondence 1962. Box 1. Dawson City Museum.

Graham, R. D. Tourism and Information Branch. Yukon. 1972. Yukon Tourism 1972 Annual Report: Review of the Yukon Travel Industry 1962-1972. Whitehorse. 

Haldenby, Allan. 1960, December 7. Letter to the Superintendent public works. 1.1.4: Correspondence w secretary treasurer March 1958 to October 1960. Box 1. DCM Archives.

Warner, Iris. 1964, November 19. “Preserved in Museum at Dawson. Whitehorse Daily Star. p.9.

Warner, Iris. 1963. “A Museum for Dawson City.” North, 10(4): 13-16.

Warner, Iris. 1962. “Museum – Tribute to Dawson City. Lesson to All Communities.” Journal name is not clear.

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