Case Study: Dawson City Museum Timeline, 1970s

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

Old Territorial Administration Building, May 1976 (Artist: Pam Elton; Dawson City Museum Archives 2006.4.21)
  • 1970:

    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).

  • 1973:


    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).

  • 1974:


    The Museum is concerned about their ability to house valuable objects in the Old Territorial Building, such as Klondike Kate’s Clothing (Harvey 1974).

  • 1975:


    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.


    Colour view of the Dawson Hardware Store which also served as a Gold Rush Museum. A smaller building adjacent served as the gift store, called the Gold Rush Boutique. The buildings and museum were owned by Joe and Marion Langevin.
    Gold Rush Museum, October 1975 (Artist: Harold Dines; Dawson City Museum Archives 2013.1.21.7)

    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.
    Joe Langevin and Marion Langevin, Dawson Hardware Museum, c1975 (Canadian Photo Archive; Dawson City Museum Archives 1975.6.29)


    Staff began to reorganize and relabel the displays (Dawson City Museum Curator’s Report, 1975).

    Fundraising / Earned Revenues

    The Museum:

    • 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).

  • 1976:


    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).

    Bear Creek, c1972 (Artist: Harold Dines; Dawson City Museum Archives: 2013.1.7.15)


    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).

    A screen shot of an image in: Hamilton, Janice. 1977, June 8. “Pay off comes for pre-industrial revolution.” Whitehorse Star, page 7.

    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).

    Programming (Other)

    The staff were costumed this year (Curator’s Report June 1976).

  • 1977:


    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).

    card mounted view of Robert Service sitting at his desk in Monte Carlo with his hand on his small typewriter.
The rolltop desk is also in the Dawson City Museum collection
    Robert Service at his desk in Monte Carlo, c1930 (Canadian Photo Archive; Dawson City Museum Archive: 1977.9.2)

    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).

    colour image of the of Fortymile Townsite sign
    Fortymile at Break Up, 1978 (Artist: Boyd Campbell; Dawson City Museum Archives: 1984.102.1)

    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).
  • 1978:


    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).

    Programming (Other)

    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).

    A trailer for a film about the Dawson Film Find

    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).
  • 1979:


    The Dawson City Museum asked to buy the Old Territorial Administration Building (OTAB), which housed the Museum (Northern Times, February 23 1979).

    Flood of May 1979 (Artist: Brian Reeves; Dawson City Museum Archives: 1984.104.2)

    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).

    Programming (Other)

    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).

    Mining Operation, Dominion Creek, cJuly 1972 (Artist: Harold Dines; Dawson City Museum Archives: 2013.1.7.21)


    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).

Government Policy

First Nation

  • 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.

Parks Canada Brochure for the Dawson Historical Complex in 1974 (source)

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).


  • 1970:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    During a Yukon Territorial Council meeting, the Commissioner is asked about museum grants and states:

    …we’re having a difficult enough time taking care of the living without worrying about the dead, and I cannot assure Council at this time that there will be funds available or matching grants available for museums.


  • 1975:

    Tourism Policy

    There is a capital grant available to museums through Tourism (Source).

  • 1976:

    Historic Sites

    Yukon Government announced they would not become involved in an extensive historic resource stabilization, restoration or interpretive program because:

    YTG funding for this type of program simply does not exist now, and probably won’t be available for the foreseeable future.

    Lynch 1976

    Tourism Policy

    Museums are eligible for a grant to societies that promote tourism and the capital grant continues:

    If, Mr. Chairman, if a museum con- tributes towards the development of tourism, then it would qualify for this grant. Now, this is an operating grant. Any monies towards construction of museums will be handled separately under a Capital Museum Grant which is shown here as $30,000.00, but it could go to museums, yes.


    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).

  • 1977:


    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).

    Tourism Policy

    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:

    In Yukon’s Tourism Industry, Museums have important role to play in disseminating much of the territory’s colorful past. The Museum is the only Museum in the Klondike region, and has an important function to perform in educating the visitor with regards to Yukon area’s history.

    Jones 1977, April
  • 1978:


    The Yukon Historical and Museums Association began advocating for a territorial museums advisor.

    Since historical and museum development is being enlarged in the Yukon, the YHMA is preparing a brief requesting the establishment of a territorial museums advisor.

    YHMA 1978, November

    Tourism Policy

    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).

  • 1979:


    Administration of Yukon was given to legislature and the commissioner was relegated to a lieutenant governor role (Johnson 1981).

    Tourism Policy

    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.

    Mr. Chairman, I will answer that question in regards to the legislative authority for the museum grants. We do not have the legislative authority to make those grants; however, it has been a practice for years now, and I will leave it up to the honourable Members opposite whether they want me to take that out of the budget or not.



  • 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

    Peter Gould and Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau, April 30 1977 (Canadian Photo Archive; Dawson City Museum Archives 1984.235.2)

    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).

Community Action

  • 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).

  • 1976:

    Dawson City Museum Float, Discovery Day Parade, c1980 (Artist: Ed and Star Jones; Dawson City Museum Archives: 1998.22.571)

    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.

    Yolanda Burkhard, Mayor of Dawson City, September 1, 1977 (Canadian Photo Archive; Dawson City Museum Archive: 1994.642.2)

    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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