Last updated: April 6, 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, 2010s).
- Museum Operations
- Government Policy
- Community Action
After a failed fire inspection in 1968 and a lack of community participation in the Museum, the Society offered to sell all of its assets to National Historic Sites for $1 (Shaw 1970).
The DCM arranged to repair and recondition a grand piano that was vandalized in the Community Hall (Whitehorse Star 1970, August).
1971: After a fire inspection caused the Museum to consider closing and transferring its assets to the National Historic Sites, there is a change on the Board and the Museum decides to stay open (Snider 1971 1972).
William Ogilvie’s – a pioneer surveyor / member of the first scientific expedition into the territory – granddaughter donates a theodolite that he used (Yukon News, 1973).
The Museum is concerned about their ability to house valuable objects in the Old Territorial Building, such as Klondike Kate’s Clothing (Harvey 1974).
The DCM decided to build a new building for the museum, leading to a search for a suitable site (Jones 1975, April).
The DCM repainted the interior of the Old Territorial Administration Building, which housed (and continues to house…) the Museum.
The DCM purchased the Dawson Hardware Museum building and collection.
- They had put down a downpayment in Spring to keep the collection in Dawson, but did not have the full amount when it was due.
- The Klondike Visitor’s Association loaned money interest free and the defunct Kiwanas Club gave money that was left in their account (Snowalter 1975).
- During the summer, this new museum / collection was opened to the public for four hours a day.
Staff began to reorganize and relabel the displays (Dawson City Museum Curator’s Report, 1975).
Fundraising / Earned Revenues
- Held a Steak Dinner and Dance as well as a Bazaar to raise funds for the museum (Jones 1975, May).
- Put out a pot for donations – that is, Thundermug fund (Dawson City Museum Curator’s Report, 1975).
Winchester produced 10,200 Klondike Gold Rush Commemorative Rifles and gave a percent of the royalties from sales to the DCM for their building fund (Trolard 1986).
Short term grants allowed the museum to hire staff. For example:
- The DCM used a Local Initiatives Program grant, employing people during winter to build a washroom, put a fence around the trains, do research (Indigenous history and personalities of the gold rush), catalogue the collection, and rearrange the displays (Snowalter 1975).
- An individual began working year round as the Museum’s first curator (Dawson City Museum Curator’s Report 1975).
OTAB – the museum building – was too cold to work in during the winter. So, museum staff worked out of room in the City Garage with insulation and plastic provided by the Museum (Dawson City Museum Curator’s Report, 1975).
There was concern that the building was not to national standards, limiting federal funding available (Rubinsky 1976). As such, Society members agreed that the Old Territorial Administration Building should be restored (Dawson City Museum Society Meeting Minutes, February 2, 1976).
The DCM advertised that the old Hardware Museum building was for rent or sale (Dawson City Museum Society Meeting Minutes, June 29, 1976).
The DCM Society members were concerned about fire due to a fire in Bonanza (see the picture above) so they installed smoke detectors (Rubinsky 1976).
The Museum stored some of its collection at the Parks Canada Bear Creek location (Dawson City Museum Society Meeting Minutes, June 29, 1976).
The Museum re-opened, incorporating the collection from the Hardware Museum purchased and operated in 1975. As a result, the exhibitions began to reflect rooms and shops (Rubinsky 1976), including:
- Klondike Kate’s bedroom
- a blacksmith shop
- a cabin
Fundraising / Earned Revenues
The Museum received funding through the Local Initiatives Program (LIP) for “Big Cabin Crafts,” which involved working with Dawsonites to make Jubilee Dolls and then selling the dolls in the gift shop (Dawson City Museum AGM Minutes October 27, 1976).
The DCM continued:
- Thundermug fund
- Operating a “sales corner” in the Museum
- A Christmas bazaar / community fair
The DCM held a raffle for a Klondike Commemorative Rifle (Dawson City Museum Meeting Minutes, August 31, 1976).
Short term grants allowed the museum to hire staff. For example:
- The Local Initiatives Program (LIP) was incredibly important to winter staffing, which involved as many as 7 staff (Dawson City Museum AGM Minutes October 27, 1976; Curator Report, December 7, 1976).
The Museum continued to be too cold for use during the winter. During the winter, staff worked in offices on loan from Parks Canada (DCM Curator Report December 7, 1976).
The staff were costumed this year (Curator’s Report June 1976).
The Society unanimously agreed to stay in the Old Territorial Administration Building (Curators Report for a meeting on March 29, 1977).
The Museum rented a warehouse at Bear Creek from Parks Canada to store artifacts (Curator’s Report for the Annual General Meeting, October 25, 1977).
Robert Service’s Desk was donated to the Museum.
The DCM opened new exhibitions on the second floor and re-decorated the old Council Chambers (DCM Curator’s Report for the Annual General Meeting, October 25, 1977).
The Clinton Creek Ladies Petticoat Circle sponsored the Fortymile exhibit, which opened in the summer. The exhibit was based on research conducted as part of the 1976-1977 Winter Works grant (Jones 1977). Then information needed to be reviewed in the winter because it had not been “condensed enough” (DCM Annual General Meeting Minutes, October 25, 1977).
Fundraising / Earned Revenue
The Museum collaborated with Parks Canada on a postcard series (see below), which the DCM sold in their gift shop alongside a reproduction of a 1903 poster. Other objects sold in the new gift shop area include books and the Jubilee Dolls (see above).
The Museum received charitable status (DCM Minutes February 28 1978).
Short term grants allowed the Museum to hire staff. For example:
- During the summer season, the Museum hired eight people due to a Tourist Advisory Grant.
- They received another Local Initiatives Program grant for winter employment.
- They received a Young Canada Works Grant to clean graveyards in the community (DCM Curator’s Report for the Annual General Meeting, October 25, 1977).
- During the winter there were up to 17 people employed at the museum (DCM Curators Report for a meeting on March 29, 1977).
The DCM engaged in cataloguing work thanks to funding for employment from Canada Works (DCM Minutes March 28 1978).
The catalogue work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples revealed most of the artifacts relating to Indigenous Peoples did not come from the area (Robinson 1978).
The Museum developed an exhibition on Indigenous Peoples to replace the “Walk through Dawson” exhibit and former mining office wicket (DCM Minutes March 28 1978).
- Using a Canada Works grant, the Museum hired someone to research the Hän speaking peoples.
- The research involved taking photos of someone making snow shoes and another person tanning hides.
- It also involved recording conversations with Indigenous Peoples.
- Hides were donated from Old Crow for the exhibition.
The DCM received $13,800 from the Yukon Department of Tourism and $3,000 from the Klondike Visitors Association to hire Raymond Harris to conduct a planning study for the museums future (Lawrence 1978).
- Importantly, the feasibility study was necessary for the Museum to be eligible for funding from the National Museum funding program.
- The study considered whether the Museum’s collection could continue to be accommodated in the Old Territorial Administration Building because Parks Canada was planning restorations (DCM Minutes January 25 1978).
The DCM participated in the National Museum’s Explore your Heritage competition. The Museum selected six students who wrote essays on “A Yukon Winter” to win a 24 day tour of Canada to see heritage sites (DCM Director’s Report February 2 1978).
The DCM was contracted to coordinated the Dawson Film Find, receiving funding from the National Film Archives. (DCM Minutes July 26 1978).
Using Canada Works, the Museum created a guidebook (DCM Minutes March 28 1978)
Short term grants continued to enable the Museum to hire staff. For example:
- Canada Works employed a total of 19 people (DCM Minutes September 26 1978).
- The Yukon Tourism Grant provided for another staff person (DCM Director’s Report May 30 1978).
- The National Museums National Inventory Assistance Cataloguing grant provided the salary for three student cataloguers and a leader (DCM Director’s Report May 30 1978).
- The National Museums provided funding for the DCM to hire a coordinator for the Explore your Heritage competition (see information under programming).
The Dawson City Museum asked to buy the Old Territorial Administration Building (OTAB), which housed the Museum (Northern Times, February 23 1979).
The OTAB steps were washed away in a flood during the Spring (DCM Annual General Meeting Minutes, November 19, 1979).
The Museum failed a fire inspection (see documents in 4a.4.15: Fire inspection 1979. Box 4. Dawson City Museum).
The Museum sold the Hardware Museum building (DCM Annual General Meeting Minutes, November 19, 1979).
Conservators from the Canadian Conservation Institute worked on the locomotives following a flood (DCM Annual General Meeting Minutes, November 19, 1979).
Fundraising / Earned Revenue
The Museum sold flood t-shirts, selling their original 200 quickly and ordering more (DCM Director’s Report July 23 1979).
Parks Canada contracted the Museum for the Creek Survey Project to survey locations and artifacts on Hunker and Dominion Creeks (DCM Director’s Report July 23 1979).
The Museum experienced a decline in earned revenue, and temporarily layed off the Director/Curator (DCM Annual General Meeting Minutes, November 19, 1979).
Staff worked in a room provided by Parks Canada during the winter (DCM Minutes September 26 1978).
1977: The Indian Band Council rented the Dawson Hardware Store from the DCM (Dawson City Museum Meeting Minutes, June 1, 1977)
There were significant changes in the federal museum and employment policies during this period. Those changes are outlined in more detail here. This timeline will focus on Federal activities related to national historic sites of significance in Dawson City.
A curator from the National Museum of Natural Sciences suggests that the Dawson City Museum may be able to get new or renovated quarters as part of the associate museum program (Harington 1971).
Research on Dawson City, the buildings, and its history became ongoing:
- The Dawson Daily News: Journalism in the Klondike
- The Dawson Daily News: Journalism on Canada’s Last Frontier
Parks Canada (1978) notes Gold Fields (1971) was prepared to help provide guidance – I have not yet found this document.
Parks Canada (1978) notes Dawson City Buildings (1972) was prepared to help provide guidance – I have not yet found this document.
Restoration services (a division of the Engineering and Architecture Branch of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs) collected data then prepared Prepared Urban Conservation Plan (1974). The document outlined procedures and principles that could preserve and enhance the historic fabric of the city (Parks Canada 1978) – I have not found this document yet.
A Task Force was formed to produce concepts and programs for Dawson City Historic Sites and the Klondike Gold Fields (Parks Canada 1978)
The Task Force presented Proposals for the Dawson City Historic Sites and The Klondike Gold Fields to a steering committee (Parks Canada 1978) – I have been unable to access this document yet.
Parks Canada set up a display of their proposed restoration of Dawson in the Old Territorial Administration Building’s (which housed the Museum) old Council Chambers (Curators Report for the Annual General Meeting, October 25, 1977).
Parks Canada collaborated with the Museum on a jubilee postcard series, absorbing most of the cost to print 90,000 cards for the Museum to sell (Curators Report for the Annual General Meeting, October 25, 1977).
A Master Development Plan for the Klondike National Historic Sites
And, research continued:
A Parks Canada employee presented at a YHMA Conservation Seminar to provide, “many helpful suggestions on the ways a small museum could slow down the deterioration of artifacts through the use of proper handling, storage and display methods” (YHMA 1978, 3).
Parks Canada planning involved taking over operations of and restoring the Old Territorial Administration Building, which housed the Dawson City Museum.
The National Museums of Canada’s Atlantic Museomobile went to Dawson (DCM Minutes July 26 1978).
Flo Whyard, Minister of the Yukon Territorial Council, argued there would be no heritage programs unless the federal government assisted with financing. Importantly, those at the Yukon Heritage Conference wondered why the federal government was providing $6 million to the North West Territories without providing comparable funding to Yukon for heritage (The Yukon News 1978).
Research and the publication of reports continued:
- The Annex to the Commissioner’s Residence, Dawson: A Structural History, 1901 – 1964
- The Dawson City Archaeological Program: Structural Report for 1978 Operations
- The Bank of British North America, Dawson, Yukon, 1898-1968: A Use and Structural History
The budget for the Klondike National Historic Site program was cut back from $1.5 to $1 million, meaning they were unable to include the Old Territorial Administration Building in their renovations (Northern Times 1979).
Parks Canada continued to indirectly support the Museum by including the OTAB in their contract for exterior security in the evenings and the contract for grounds keeping.
Federal – Territorial
In 1977, the Federal and Territorial governments signed the General Development Agreement, which led to tourism being considered an integral element in economic development (See documents in Grants- CYTA 1982, Box 5, Dawson City Museum Archives).
Explicit Museum Policy
During a Yukon Territorial Council meeting, the Commissioner is asked about museum grants and states:
There is a capital grant available to museums through Tourism (Source).
Yukon Government announced they would not become involved in an extensive historic resource stabilization, restoration or interpretive program because:
Museums are eligible for a grant to societies that promote tourism and the capital grant continues:
The capital grant now also provided funding for the acquisition of artifacts due to a concern that a artifacts were leaving Yukon (Source).
The Yukon Tourism Advisory Council decided how the funding was distributed (Source). They provided the DCM with a $1,300 grant (Dawson City Museum Board Minutes, April 27, 1976).
The Territorial Council held a special session in the Old Territorial Administration Building’s (which housed the museum) old Council Chambers (Curator’s Report for the Annual General Meeting, October 25, 1977).
Museums in Dawson City, Teslin, Burwash Landing and Whitehorse (MacBride) received operational funding (Tourism, Parks & Information 1977).
- The Dawson City Museum received a Yukon Government Tourism Advisory Grant for $4,300 (Curator’s Report for the Annual General Meeting, October 25, 1977).
When soliciting additional funding, the Dawson City Museum made tourism related arguments to the Department of Tourism and Information. For example:
The Yukon Historical and Museums Association began advocating for a territorial museums advisor.
The Yukon Tourism Development Strategy report prepared and established an approach for tourism development (See documents in Grants- CYTA 1982, Box 5, Dawson City Museum Archives).
Flo Whyard, Minister of the Territorial Council, noted she should not be seeking re-election because Yukon does not have resources to implement the programs that will help the economy grow or control over the own resources (The Yukon News 1978).
Administration of Yukon was given to legislature and the commissioner was relegated to a lieutenant governor role (Johnson 1981).
Territorial tourism objectives established (See documents in Grants- CYTA 1982, Box 5, Dawson City Museum Archives).
The Dawson City Museum continued to receive funding from the Department of Tourism for operations (DCM Director’s Report July 23 1979).
There is a discussion in the legislature about the lack of legislation for the museum grant program.
1974: The City Council provided the museum with funding for 40 working weeks as part of an employment program (Dawson City Museum Board, Minutes from December 12, 1974). I have no additional information on this program. It is possible this is the Local Initiative Programs given to municipal projects.
1977: Dawson City’s Diamond Jubilee
Dawson Council used the old Council Chambers in the Old Territorial Administration Building (which housed the Museum) for Canada celebrations (Curator’s Report for the Annual General Meeting, October 25, 1977).
1970: The piano that the museum repaired is placed at the Palace Grand and played as part of the Gaslight Follies’ performances (Whitehorse Star 1970, August).
The Dawson City Museum receives 2nd prize in the Discovery Weekend parade.
1977: Members of the museum community held the first Yukon Museums Seminar, establishing the Yukon Historical and Museums Association.
Dawson City’s jubilee celebration year.
1978: The Klondike Visitors Association begins to award the Community Trust Fund for Dawson non-profits’ capital projects. They awarded the first grant to the Dawson City Museum, which submitted the first application that they received. The Fund started when the KVA earned $75,000 surplus through their operations (Whitehorse Star 1978).
Do you know of any important milestones that are missing?
Would any of the entries benefit from more information or links to additional resources?
Harington, C. R. 1971, May 26. Letter to the custodian of National Historic Sites in Dawson City. 2.2.1: Correspondence 1971. Box 1. Dawson City Museum.
Johnson, Linda. 1981. “Governing the Yukon.” Proceedings of the Spring Meeting, 1981. Yukon Historical and Museums Association.
Jones, Kathy. 1975, April 10. “New Museum Planned for Dawson.” Yukon News. p. 7.
Jones, Kathy. 1975, May. “Dawson News Report.” Yukon News. 18D.
Jones, Kathy. 1977, April. Letter to the Tourist Advisory Board. 3b.3.107 grants ytg tourism 1977. Box 3. DCM.
Jones, Kathy. 1977, December. “Forty Mile Exhibit Report… Dawson Museum, 1977.” 3b.3.103, Box 3. DCM.
Harvey, R.B. 1974, July 17. Letter to the museum secretary. 2.2.8 Correspondence 1974. Box 1. Dawson City Museum.
Lawrence, Richard. 1978, August. “Dawson Considers Museum.” Northern Times.
Lynch, Michael. 1976 October. “Historic Resources Recommendations Accepted.” News Release. 5.5.13: A future for the past – ytg discussion paper &related info 1980, Box 4. Dawson City Museum.
Northern Times. 1979, February. “Parks Canada Cut-Backs add Problem for Museum.” Norther Times.
Northern Times. 1979. February 23. “Museum to Buy and Restore.” Northern Times.
Robinson, Sally. c. 1978. Letter to Jeff Huston. 3b.3.143 Han exhibit correspondence 1978. Box 1. Dawson City Museum.
Rubinsky. 1976, June 9. “Renovated this Winter: Museum Reopens June 21 Officially. Whitehorse Daily Star. p. 22.
Shaw, G. 1970, March 11. Letter to National Historic Sites. 1.1.43 correspondence 1970. Box 1. DCM.
Snider, K. C. 1971, January 27. Letter to the NHS Superintendent. 2.2.1: Correspondence. Box 1. Dawson City Museum.
Snider, K.C. 1972, February 21. Letter to the White Valley Historical Society. 2.2.2: Correspondence 1972. Box 1. Dawson City Museum.
Snowalter, Mirian. 1975, October 31. “Dawson Museum Society Finds Escape from Hole.” Whitehorse Daily Star. p. 21.
The Yukon News. 1978, October 18. “Whyard Compares Yukon NWT Funds. The Yukon News.
Tourism, Parks & Information Branch. Government of Yukon. 1977. Annual Report 1976/1977.
Trolard, Tom. 1986. Winchester Commemoratives. Commemorative Investments Pr.
Whitehorse Star. 1970, August 18. “Dawson News.” Whitehorse Star. p. 15.
Whitehorse Star. 1978, August. “Museum gets First KVA Grant.” Whitehorse Star.
YHMA. 1978. “Yukon Heritage Conference: Conservation Seminar.” Newsletter. 3.
YHMA. 1978, November. “In Summary, the Resolutions Read.” Newsletter, 3.
Yukon News, 1973, August 23. “Dawson Museum gets Ogilvie’s Transit.” Yukon News.
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