Case Study: Dawson City Museum Timeline, 1980s

Last updated: April 13, 2022

CW: Historic, colonialist language is visible in the names of organizations and images used.

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

In the 1970s, the Dawson City Museum began to professionalize due to the first year round director who used federal employment funding to support winter positions. Of particular significance, the Director and other employees began to reorganize materials into displays with a narrative, moving away from a “grandmother’s attic” approach to exhibiting the history of the region. For more information on the 1970’s see the timeline available here.

In the early 1980s, the Director resigned after warning the Museum’s society that they needed to provide more support because she was overworked. Her eventual resignation seemingly provided the impetus needed for the Society to expand and develop. As the Society began offering more support and developing committees, the territory also developed a museum advisor position and signed an agreement with the federal government, leading to funding for tourism related capital projects. As a result, the 1980s was a decade of change for the museum as it became more professional using a broad range of financial and non financial resources available from the federal government, territorial government, and the community itself.

  • 1980:

    The Dawson City Museum (DCM) opened late because they needed approval to open from the Fire Inspector who had asked for renovations. The Museum closed early because they did not have the staff to open holiday weekends (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).

    Letter to the Director from the Fire Inspector. 4a.4.15. Box 4. DCM Files.


    The Museum worked to meet requirements from the Fire Marshall (DCM Minutes January 21 meeting), using a $14,000 grant from Yukon Government provided for building repairs (DCM Director’s Report for November). They used the special grant to do electric work, plumbing, carpentry and fixing broken windows (DCM Director’s Report for August).


    Museum staff worked to better store artifacts:

    • in order to meet Fire Marshall requirements (DCM Minutes January 21 meeting).
    • using funding from the Yukon Tourist Advisory Board to purchase materials to organize the artifacts at Bear Creek (See additional information under staffing and Yukon support; DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).

    The Museum received:

    • many donations of archival material and mining equipment.
    • a steppe mammoth tooth (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).


    Two pistols were stolen from the Museum’s exhibition and later recovered (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).

    Fundraising / Earned Revenues

    The Museum continued their gift shop services. They:

    • received around 300 license plates from the MacBride Museum and sold them during the summer (DCM Minutes January 21 meeting).
    • sold coloring books (DCM Minutes April 1 meeting).
    • found and sold a box of the Jubilee doll’s (see the DCM 1970s timeline for information; DCM Director’s Report for August)

    The Museum had contracts that helped generate money, such as:

    • a cataloguing contract with Parks Canada. In January they had typed 430 cards and mounted 270 (DCM Minutes January 21 meeting). Additional Parks Canada contracts are described in: DCM Director’s Report for November.
    • a contract to research flood levels from the Water Resources Board (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).

    The Museum doubled its admission fees for adults from $1 to $2 (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).


    The Director noted 1980 was a year of turmoil because she attempted “to cover too many bases at once” and there was a lack of community involvement within the Museum Society (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).

    During the summer:

    • The Museum experienced high staff turnover, starting the season with six staff and ending with only three. Nineteen people turned down a position at the Museum and many cited low wages as the reason (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).
    • A student work grant enabled six students to clean the Bear Creek Warehouse, install metal shelving, and re-box / store artifacts (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981). A later report noted that “upwards of 13 persons were hired” (DCM Director’s Report for November).
  • 1981:

    Programming (Other)

    The three year Klondike Heritage Services project began, involving work on the resource centre, education programs, audio-visual materials, registration and collection, photography, displays, and more (DCM Klondike Heritage Services Report).

    improved services to both visitors and the community. This may be realised by upgrading exhibits; developing new exhibits; implementing a đocumentation program through historical research, cataloguing artifacts in the collection, archival organization, and genealogical work re Klondikers; organizing a visitor/community services program through audio-visual programs, travelling exhibit preparation, implementing public access to documentation. On-the-job training will be provided, which will create a nucleus of locally qualified people from which permanent staff may be hired in the near future.

    Jones-Gates 1981, 7


    The Dawson City Museum received a $133,000 “work grant” from the Department of Employment and Immigration’s Canada Community Services Program, which funding the Klondike Heritage Services Project (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).

    The Museum’s Director noted she may resign, pointing to a lack of support for the job (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981). In particular, the Director had to engage in bookkeeping and treasurer work for which she was not trained (See, for example, documents available in Klondike heritage services programs final report January 1982, Box 5, Dawson City Museum Archives).

  • 1982:


    The Old Territorial Building received funding through the Canada-Yukon Tourism Agreement for the foundation and fencing for the locomotives (Yukon 1983; DCM AGM President’s Report November 26 1982).

    Klondike Mines Railway Locomotive No. 1, 1963 (Artist: Harold Dines; DCM Archives 2013.1.21.24)


    The Museum established a collections committee and engaged in collections work as described under staffing (DCM Klondike Heritage Services Report).

    Earned Revenues / Fundraising

    The Museum had to approve a deficit budget due to financial concerns, which lead to energies being redirected to local fundraising, contracts, and so on.


    With the help of volunteers, the Museum improved the south gallery with a newspaper office, second hand store, and a fire display. The north wing was reorganized to include an audio visuals room (DCM Klondike Heritage Services Report).

    The Council chambers / Courtroom was used for the following temporary exhibitions (DCM. Box 5. 7.7.42. Exhibitions, displays, expositions and fairs Gallery 1982):

    • June 7-30:
      • Drawings of the planned building restorations
      • Art display by students, depicting dogs and dog sleds
    • July 1-8: Photo exhibit from the Museum’s collection titled “Kids in Dawson”
    • July 9-August 18: Norther Fibres Guild Exhibit
    • August 19-25: Arts Camp show from the Music Festival’s summer camp.


    The DCM began a review of its constitution and bylaws, but stopped due to financial limitations (DCM AGM President’s Report November 26 1982).

    Programming (other)

    The Museum increased its opening hours and expanded its programming to include genealogical research, historic photographic services and film presentations (DCM AGM President’s Report November 26 1982). The film presentations included (DCM. Box 5. 7.7.42. Exhibitions, displays, expositions and fairs Gallery 1982):

    • Land for all Seasons: a slide show on the Dempster Highway
    • The Yukoner: a film on Sourdough Harry Leamon
    • Dawson Film Find: a selection of silent films unearthed in Dawson in 1978
    • City of Gold: Film on Klondike history

    Museum staff and volunteers used their experiences from past Parks Canada contracts to create finding guides for archival material in the resource center. A photographer also worked to copy original prints to better facilitate making prints for display or sale (DCM Klondike Heritage Services Report).

    The Museum put on a workshop with the YHMA, addressing ethics and artifact ownership, collection policies, heritage laws, archaeological methods of gathering and recording information, and cataloguing procedures (DCM Klondike Heritage Services Report).


    The Museum’s director resigned (DCM AGM President’s Report November 26 1982).

    The Museum continued to receive staffing through funding programs, including (DCM Klondike Heritage Services Report):

    • two students hired through a federal grant. They worked in the resource center.
    • a student hired through a federal grant served as a visual arts guide, showing the Dempster highway slide show and movies to visitors. The student also helped with genealogy inquiries.
    • six students were hired to catalogue, photograph, and store artifacts. One of the students was a Conservation student at Queen’s University.

    Staff worked to “train themselves,” using opportunities available outside the Yukon (DCM Klondike Heritage Services Report).

  • 1983:

    Attendance was down 30% (DCM Board minutes July 12 1983).


    As part of the Canada-Yukon Tourism Agreement the Old Territorial Administration Building received $125,000 for roof reconstruction (YLA 25.3.38).

    Around Christmas time, the Museum also received notification of $200,000 in funding to replace the foundation. As stated in a newsletter from the time:

    The Museum received quite a Christmas present this year. The Department of Renewable Resources, Heritage Branch, made $200,000 available to replace the foundation of the Old Territorial Administration Building which presently houses the Museum. The happy news was due in large part to the efforts of Dale Perry, Bea Firth, and Terry Weninger, and it is to them we offer our heartfelt thanks

    Dawson City Museum and Historical Society 1983, 40

    The funding for the foundation was timely and necessary as a report found that 26% of the foundation posts had failed and 35% had rotten to a unsalvageable level. The Museum expected CYTA funding to repair the foundation but were not considered eligible (Ross 1982).

    The Museum used a CYTA (Canada Yukon Tourism Agreement) grant to put fencing around a train (Dawson City Museum and Historical Society, 1983).


    The Museum actively used a hygrothermograph from the CCI to monitor the environment and began checking the UV levels in the building (DCM Board minutes July 12 1983; DCM Board minutes July 26 1983; DCM Minutes May 17 1983).

    The Collections Committee used the new aims and objective to assess a portion of the collection, resulting in de-accessioning work (DCM Board minutes July 12 1983).

    Artifacts were unearthed as part of the work on the Old Territorial Administration Building’s foundation (DCM Minutes February 22 1983).

    Earned revenues / Fundraising

    In Augusts, the Museum cut their hours of operation to save on staff costs because admissions were down (DCM Board minutes August 9 1983).

    The Museum raised money during the Canada Day celebration (DCM Board minutes July 12 1983).


    The Museum set up the “Courtenay collection” (DCM Board minutes August 9 1983). There was also a display of art and photography (DCM Minutes May 17 1983).

    A staff member began planning an “Aboriginal Gallery” but the person quit, delaying the project (DCM Board minutes July 26 1983).


    Aims and Objectives adopted

    The Constitution continued to undergo revisions (DCM April 5, 1983 Minutes; DCM Board minutes October 4 1983).

    The Museum society engaged in a membership drive (DCM April 19, 1983 Minutes).

    The Board developed active committees with 9 committees providing direction to the Society (Ross 1983).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum organized a workshop with support from support from the Council for Yukon Indians, the MacBride Museum, the Yukon Lotteries Commission, the YTG Heritage Branch and CP Air. The workshop addressed the importance of documentation in a museum collection (YHMA 1983).

    There was a summer audio-visual program with a slide show and excerpts of a silent movie (Dawson City Museum and Historical Society, 1983).

    The Museum developed 8 class room programs (Ross 1983).


    The Museum entered the third year of the Klondike Heritage Services Project, which involved grants for employees, and received funding under the Winter Works Grant for additional employees. As stated in a newsletter:

    In 1983, we entered our third and final year of the Klondike Heritage Program. Two positions are sponsored by this grant; registration/ cataloguing and historical research. Under the Winter Works Grant there are three positions: photographer, who will begin copying and restoring that part of the museum collection; education officer, who will institute an education program for schools, and librarian, who will continue developing the library and resource centre. As an indication of the success of the resource centre, over 200 inquiries were answered last summer

    Dawson City Museum and Historical Society, 1983

    The Museum continued to hire staff, using a system of grants (Grant 1983):

    • 1983 was the last year of the Klondike Heritage Services Programme, which used a Canada Community Services Project grant to fund a range of positions.
    • the Winters Work Project allowed staff to work in photography, research and educational programming.
    • the Artifact Management Programme provided a registrar, catalogues, and a photographer for the summer of 1983.
    • YTG Special Employment Assistance Program for Yukon Students allowed the museum to hire a genealogy researcher and assistant for the resource center.
    • the Summer Support program provided four students.
  • 1984:


    The Yukon Territorial Government funded additional plans and activities to restore the Old Territorial Administration Building. The Minister of Economic Development and Tourism explained the support as follows:

    What it is is to do the architectural planning for reconstruction of the inside of the building, and to actually restore the inside of the building back to what is necessary for a museum and also with respect to the old legislative chambers. We have already expended in the neighbourhood of $1.2 million on the building to date. This is probably the final money that will be expended on the building and it will be back in a condition where it is stable and where we can utilize it to full advantage. 

    YLA 25.4.39, 767

    Landscaping work began at the Museum (DCM Meeting minutes May 29, 1984).


    The collection contained about 30,000 objects and only a third was catalogued (DCM Collections Committee Report for 1988-9). However, the Museum developed a collections policy and worked to address the uncatalogued items (Thorp 1984).


    The Museum opened exhibitions on Moosehide, commissioners, and the Herschel Island (DCM Meeting minutes July 10, 1984).


    Statement of Intent, Collections Policy and Personnel Policy adopted.

    Management Plan developed with the assistance of Brenda Berk.


    The Katimavik program provided volunteer support (DCM Meeting minutes January 10, 1984).

    The Museum received a Winter Works grant for three people (DCM Meeting minutes January 10, 1984).

  • 1985:

    Due to financial difficulties, the Museum had a shorter season with less staff. While there was a slight decrease in visitors, there was an increase in the number of local residents visiting the Museum (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).


    The Old Territorial Administration Building Restoration continued (YLA 26.2.4)


    The Museum engaged in work on the photograph collection. In particular (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985):

    • The collection was organized into categories.
    • A Yukon Lottery Commission grant enabled the Museum to purchase a copy camera.

    The Resource Centre Co-ordinator evaluated the books, magazines and periodicals according to the Museum’s Collections Policy and submitted items to the Collections Committee for Review (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).


    The Museum produced its first traveling exhibition, which used the photography collection. The exhibition was titled “Klondike Youth, a Photographic Display” (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).

    Following the recommendations from the Management Study, the Museum stopped conducting guided tours of the Museum during the summer. Instead, they increased the signage to provide information on the Klondike and allow visitors to tour the museum at their own pace (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).

    Committees – Display. 11.11.33. Box 9. DCM.

    The Museum opened the IODE, YOOP, Klondike Mines Railway, and Percy DeWolfe exhibits. The Visitor Reception Centre also hosted a small promotional exhibit from the Museum (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).

    Fundraising / Earned Revenues

    The Dawson City Museum developed a cafe:

    …the request for the installation of a cafe was requested by the Dawson Museum Society, and it was in response to a number of representations made by the public and, for the most part, included tourists visiting Dawson City and visiting the museum itself. My understanding as to the intention as to the management of the cafe is that it will be leased out to a local Dawson business. They expect significant operating revenues from the operation of the cafe

    YLA 26.2.12, 229

    The Museum developed a manual for the gift shop (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).


    The Board now had the following committees: finance, display, collections, membership, fundraising, newsletter, executive, and liaison for the OTAB renovations (DCM AGM Minutes November 15 1985).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum’s Porter Engine 4 was installed at Expo ‘86’s pavilion entrance (YHMA 1986).

    The Museum completed a walking tour book of Dawson, which was written as part of a past contract with Parks Canada (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).

    The Resource Center was a popular resource (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).


    The Museum had to reduce the number of staff hired due to financial difficulties (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).

    The Museum continued to use grant programs to fund employment (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985):

    • A federal Manpower grant enabled the Museum to hire 4 people for 21 weeks to organize the photograph collection.
    • A summer student grant enabled the Museum to hire 6 students: 3 full time and 1 part time guide / security staff, a gift shop manager, and an archivist/resource centre coordinator.

    The Director did a short term study tour of archives and museums in Ontario, spending 10 days at the Public Archives of Canada. She also attended the Heritage North Conference and a YHMA conference (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).

  • 1986:

    The Dawson City Museum (DCM) closed to visitors for renovations (DCM Presidents Report November 15 1985). However, they opened in the summer in the B.Y.N (British Yukon Navigation) Ticket Office thanks to an agreement with Parks Canada (DCM Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 2)

  • 1987:


    The YTG continued to fund the Old Territorial Administration Building renovations (YLA 26.3.72). In particular, they provided funding to make a train shelter to protect a newly restored engine and other trains (DCM Acting Director’s Report).


    As part of YTG funding for major artifact stabilization, the Dawson City Museum receives funding for three trains (YLA 26.3.6)


    The DCM received $50,000 from the YTG for a major exhibit development project (YLA 26.3.7). The Museum planned “Kings of the Klondike” for the South Gallery, which was also called the “big black box” (DCM Acting Director’s Report).

    The Museum opened a community quilt display. They produced a catalogue for the exhibit, which was the first one produced by a Yukon museum (Crook 1987).

    Carpenters (See LEOP employment under staffing) made desks, tables, benches and display cases throughout the Museum (DCM Acting Director’s Report).

    The Museum held the first Multi Artist, Multi Media Art Show in Dawson – in recent memory (DCM 1988).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum published “Heirlooms – a collection of Theme Quilts handcrafted by the Community of Dawson City” with support from YTG, YLC, Canada Council and volunteers (DCM Acting Director’s Report). See exhibitions for more information.


    The DCM continued to use employment programs to fund staff (DCM January 5 1987 Minutes), including:

    • The Local Employment Opportunities Program (LEOP) provided funding for three carpenters (DCM Acting Director’s Report).
    • The Canada Yukon Job Development Program provided funding for a retail clerk, two researchers, and an administrative assistant (DCM Acting Director’s Report).
  • 1988:


    Milne House and Bear Creek – Artifact Storage

    The CCI found these locations inadequate for artifact storage (DCM Collections Committee Report for 1988-9).

    Old Territorial Administration Building

    There were problems with leaks, such as a leak due to snow that damaged an original print and negatives. The landlord (Yukon Territorial Government) noted they would monitor the leaks (DCM Acting Director’s Report March 1988). Additional problems developed, prompting and “OTAB in Crisis” meeting (See documents available in Correspondence regarding restored building, box 16b, DCM Archives).


    The Museum opened a new exhibition in the South Gallery and began planning for a revived North Gallery (DCM Display, Finance and Membership Reports).

    The Museum held the second annual multi-media, multi-artist art show in the courtroom (DCM Newsletter Vol 7 No 2).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum held the following events:

    • April: AGM
    • May 31: Grand Opening of the Museum and New Gallery
    • August – September: Second annual Yukon Expressions Art Show
    • October 1988: Venetian Carnival Mask Slide Show
    • December:
      • Open House and Charity Coffee House Concert
      • Christmas Film Night


    The Director / Curator attended a museum management course in Banff, which was funded through the Canada / Yukon Small Business Training Program and Lotteries Yukon. Lotteries also funded a staff persons at the Museum (YHMA 1989, January; DCM Director’s year end report Aril 28 1989). 

    The Museum continued to use short term grants for employees, including:

    • federal grants for student summer employment, such as Challenge ’88 (DCM Director’s year end report Aril 28 1989).
    • a Canadian Council of Archives grant for archival work (DCM Director’s report July 4, 1988).
  • 1989:


    The Museum received funding from Yukon’s Community Development Fund to produce a photographic finding aid (YHMA 1989, September).

    During February and March, the Museum used funding from the YTG Heritage Branch to catalogue the objects in the North and South Galleries. There were plans to do a Bear Creek inventory as well (DCM Collections Committee Report for 1988-9).

    The Museum received a grant to work on the “Artifact Inventory Backlog Project” (Baggaley 1989).


    The Museum held a multi-media, multi-artist art show in the courtroom (DCM Newsletter Vol 7 No 2).

    Fundraising / Earned Revenues

    The Museum received funding from the Yukon Foundation to produce a notepaper that depicted Indigenous cultures (YHMA 1989, September).


    The Museum’s Society developed Continuing to Grow – a five year master plan.

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum held the following events:

    • February: Heritage Day Open House
    • March: Volunteer / Staff appreciation night
    • April: AGM
    • Science Institute lectures throughout the year


    The Collections Committee argued a lack of continuity in staffing was a barrier to conserving and cataloguing the collection appropriately. In other words, short term staffing allowed projects to take place but the funding programs and their short term nature contributed to discrepancies in the work completed (DCM Collections Committee Report for 1988-9).

    The Museum continued to use short term grants to fund employment, including:

    • a grant from Lotteries Yukon for an office position (DCM Newsletter Vol 7 No 3)

    There is evidence summer staff were struggling to find accommodation:

    The Museum is desperately seeking accommodation (room and board, or private accommodation) for two students this summer.

    DCM Newsletter Vol 7 No 4

Government Policy

First Nation

The Lord Report (1986) contains an overview of (what was called) the Dawson Band. During the 1980s, major concerns included:

  • the loss of the Han language
  • city regulations about the facade of buildings, which did not consider Indigenous architecture and contributions
  • the lack of acknowledgement of Indigenous contributions to the Gold Rush period in Parks Canada interpretations
  • Moosehide’s lack of preservation

The following quote summarizes the relationship between the Band and heritage professionals in Dawson at that time:

Although the Dawson City Museum gives the Band copies of photographs of Moosehide, there has been relatively little contact recently. It is striking to observe the valiant efforts of a small population of Band members (about 200 in all) to preserve a culture that is anthropologically of considerable significance, without assistance from the large number of heritage professionals in Dawson, where scrupulous care is taken to preserve non-native history since 1896. The implicit question of priorities is one to which a museum policy might give some attention.

Lord Report, 58
  • 1982: The Council of Yukon Indians (CYI) asked the government not to table a Green Paper on heritage policy (McCall 1982).

    A CYI representative presented a paper at a the Yukon Historical and Museums Association workshop on heritage policy (see community below). The paper outlined the shortfalls in Yukon heritage management and the participation CYI seeks for the future. He noted there was / were:

    • a lack of appreciation of the relationships between cultural resources and the contemporary. 
    • a lack of Indian managerial museum involvement, local museum expertise and proper facilities
    • bias in education system
    • inter jurisdictional issues

    As such, the CYI asked that Indigenous cultures and traditions be:

    interpreted by Indian people – for Indian people

    Porter 1982, 25
  • 1984: A new “Indian Band Building” opened in Dawson City (DCM Meeting minutes May 29, 1984)


The Lord Report includes a chart showing Museums Assistance Program grants to Yukon museums from 1972 – 1986:

Chart from Page 11 of the Lord Report
  • 1980:

    Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

    The CCI introduced a mobile conservation service with six mobile labs traveling to all regions of Canada, which had started as a pilot program in 1979 (McCawley and Ward 1980).

    • One of the labs visited the DCM in August 1980, providing a report that outlined security problems and deficiencies in the protection of the collection (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).
  • 1981:

    Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

    The Canadian Conservation Institute’s mobile conservation laboratory service came to Yukon. The Museums Assistance Program also had a conservation assistance and upgrading equipment assistance available (YHMA 1981b).

    General / Other

    There was a 39.6 million dollar, Department of Communications fund, supported through lottery revenues, to assist arts and culture programs over 3 years. There was a “Capital Assistance to Custodial Cultural Institutions” component (YHMA 1981a).

    Parks Canada

    Relationships with Parks Canada employees enabled training for DCM employees. For example:

    [Employee name] has also been hired to assist with cataloguing. She is currently receiving three months training by … [the] Curator of Collections for Klondike National Historic Sites. In a cooperative venture, KNHS will provide [the employee] with on-the-job training in exchange for her “free” labor to that organization for this three month period.

    Jones-Gates 1981, 8

  • 1982:

    Employment Policy

    Manpower grants continue to be valuable to the Museum (DCM AGM President’s Report November 26 1982).

    National Museums Corporation (NMC)

    National Museums Corporation employees also provided assistance to Yukon museums. For example, they were resourse people for a Yukon Historical and Museums Association workshop (McCormack 1982c).

    Parks Canada

    Parks Canada support was described as integral to the DCM’s operations (DCM AGM President’s Report November 26 1982). The support included:

    • Contracts, such as a contract for cataloguing services
    • Resources to create engineering and architectural studies as well as the designs for the Old Territorial Administration building
  • 1984:

    National Museums Canada (NMC)

    The NMC provided funding for a planning study related to proposed renovations (Dorais 1984). They also commented on the Dawson City Museum’s plans for the Old Territorial Administration Building, asking that an elevator be installed (DMC Meeting minutes July 10, 1984).

  • 1985:

    Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

    The Canadian Conservation Institute did a collections survey of five Yukon museums (Lord Report).

    Parks Canada

    Parks Canada staff served on the Dawson City Museum board and committees (DCM Presidents Report November 15 1985).

  • 1986:

    General / Other

    A Study Team Report to the Task Force on Program Review (Nielsen Report) – stated artifacts from the Yukon have been replaced and should be returned to the Yukon (YLA 26.3.72).

    Parks Canada

    Parks Canada assisted the Museum as it closed for renovations, providing exhibition space during the summer and artifact storage (See correspondence available in: 11.11.34 committees – display, correspondence 1985 86, Box 11, Dawson City Museum Archives).

  • 1987:

    Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

    The CCI presented “Seminar and Collections Survey for Museums and Galleries in the Yukon” in Dawson City and Whitehorse (CCI 1987, December).

    National Museums Corporation (NMC)

    The NMC’s mobile exhibits visited the Yukon (Crook 1987).

  • 1988:

    Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

    The CCI presented “Construction of Mannequins for Historic Costumes in Whitehorse, Yukon (CCI 1989, Spring / Summer).

    The CCI published Survey of Collections in Yukon Museums, March 1988

  • 1989:

    Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

    A member of the CCI’s extension services attended a Yukon Historical and Museums Association annual meeting, presenting on the available services (CCI 1990, Autumn / Winter).

    The CCI offered the following services (Communications Canada 1989):

    • Emergency Services: Responded to all requests in emergency / disaster situations across Canada.
    • Professional Field Activities: Provided on-site technical and professional assistance.
    • Technical Advice: Answered questions or provided advice that did not require laboratory treatment or research.
    • Treatment Services: Undertook conservation treatment projects for Canadian Institutions.
    • Access to Laboratories and Equipment: Allowed access in certain situations.
    • Conservation Research
    • Scientific Analysis and Treatment: Made equipment and personnel available to answer specific problems.
    • Extension services:
      • seminars
      • workshops
      • professional conferences and symposia
      • publications
      • internships
      • fellowships
      • tours of CCI laboratories
      • training resources
      • library services

Canada – Yukon

During the 1980s, museums receive support through the Canada-Yukon Subagreement on Tourism.

Importantly, as the territorial museum program developed, Yukon received more support through the federal museum policy. As the Lord Report observes:

Federal funding and technical assistance programmes have only begun to benefit the Territory’s museums significantly in recent years, especially since the appointment of a YTG Museums Advisor.

Lord Report, Vi
  • 1980:

    Tourism Policy

    The first Canada – Yukon Subagreement on Tourism was signed in February. The purpose of the agreement was to undertake programs and projects immediately identified as integral to long term tourism development. The second was to undertake planning activities. The agreement involved a combined investment of 6 million with a YTG investment of 15% or up to $900,000 (source). It led to support for the DCM, including (DCM President’s Report AGM 1980):

    • funding to install fences around the old locomotives
    • a commitment to repair the Museum’s foundations
  • 1981:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Director of the Territorial Tourism Planning & Development Branch met with the National Museums regarding possible funding for the Dawson City Museum’s planned work on the Old Territorial Administration Building (Graham 1981, June).

  • 1982:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Yukon Museums and Historical Association noted the development of a heritage branch within the Yukon Territorial Government was beneficial to museums because it would enable better access to cost-sharing federal programs (YHMA 1982).

  • 1983:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territorial archives and Heritage Branch worked with the Yukon Historical and Museums Association to provide conservation workshops with members of the Canadian Conservation Institute (YHMA 1983b).

    The territorial Museums Advisor worked to improve working relationships with the National Museums of Canada’s Museums Assistance program, touring Yukon museums with the MAP advisor and meeting with the MAP director in Dawson (DCM 1984 Annual General Meeting Minutes).

  • 1985:

    Tourism Policy

    There was a new Canada -Yukon Tourism Agreement that aimed to increase tourist expenditure, reduce seasonal fluctuations, and generate more jobs with tourism industry support, market development, and product development (Lord Report).

  • 1987:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Museum Assistance Program funding in 1986/1987 allowed the Yukon Heritage Branch to purchase conservation monitoring equipment for museums and an upright freezer (Heritage Branch 1988).

  • 1988:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources provided funding (58,000) to the Heritage Branch to assess and promote a “cold storage” mode for humidity protection being developed by Yukon museums (Heritage Branch 1988).

    The National Museums Corporation’s Conservation Assistance Program enabled YTG to hire a conservator through a shared funding program (Ibid.).

    After the Canadian Conservation Institute terminated a mobile lab program, Yukon received a transfer of a mobile van (Ibid.).

  • 1989:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Yukon Heritage Branch organized a seminar with the Canadian Conservation Institute at the MacBride Museum (YHMA 1989).

    The Museum Advisor worked with an individual from the federal Museum Assistance Program to develop a Registration Assistance Program application (Aczel 1989).


The 1986 Lord Report provides a wonderful chart of territorial support to community museums in the 1980s:

Chart from page 26 of the Lord report, showing grant amounts
Chart from page 26 of the Lord report, showing grant amounts

Importantly, the 1980s saw the growth and development of an explicit museum policy. However that policy continued to exist within a broader tourism strategy. As the Lord report observes:

From the beginning, Yukon’s museums have experienced an inherent contradiction in their sense of mission: conceived by groups representative of their communities as a means of preserving and interpreting Yukon’s heritage, they have been perceived by other members of their communities as tourist attractions. This impression has been strengthened by their season operation, and their public programming oriented until recently almost exclusively toward summer visitors. Most of the Territorial contribution to their funding before 1982 came from the Department of Tourism, and indeed Heritage Branch is still found within that Department.

Lord Report, 113
  • 1980:

    Tourism Policy

    Museums continued to receive funding as tourism organizations, including an operating grant (total = $20,000, YLA 24.3.10) and the Tourism Attraction Contribution (total = $30,000, YLA 24.3.21).

    Funding from theYukon Tourist Advisory Board for $11,870 allowed the DCM to purchase metal shelving and other materials for the collection project described above (DCM Director’s Annual Report March 4th 1981).

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Minister of Tourism notes there would probably be a discussion paper on museum policy in the near future and legislation presented by Fall 1981 (YLA 24.3.24)

  • 1981:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Ministers responsible for Tourism and Economic Development as well as Education and Information met with the Yukon Historical and Museums Association about the Kyte Report (see community below). They were reviewing the report to develop a reply in April (YLA 24.4.19).

    Responsibility for museums was transferred to the Department of Library and Information Resources (YLA.24.4.19).

    The Department of Library and Information Services became the Department of Heritage and Cultural Resources because:

    Museums were really under Tourism, if anything, and historic sites were under Renewable Resources. Archeological permits were under Consumer and Corporate Affairs. What we have done is to draw all these threads together and make a proper department of Heritage, within the Library and Archives Department. The total Department is now called Heritage and Cultural Resources

    YLA 24.4.20 389

    The new department planned to develop a better formula for museum funding in consultation with museums. There are also plans to meet with the museums association (YLA 24.4.20).

  • 1982:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The government’s response to the Kyte Report was delayed because they waited to act until they had a Director of the new Heritage Branch (YLA 24.5.4). The Yukon Historical and Museums Association participated in the selection of the Director (McCormack 1982b).

    The Department of Tourism, Heritage and Cultural Resources is formed because heritage resources “have an intrinsic value” and “also are very important to the tourism industry” (261). A survey that showed 29% of Canadian tourism spending was spent by tourists whose main activity was visiting historical and cultural sites (YLA 25.2.14).

    Museums received operational and maintenance funding as museums instead of one type of tourist attraction (YLA 25.2.23).

    The YTG Heritage Branch provided funding to museum training through the Yukon Historical and Museums Association (YHMA 1982b).

    A Green Paper on Heritage Policy was discussed at a YHMA workshop (see community below), but the Council of Yukon Indians asked the government not to table the paper (McCall 1982).

    Heritage Branch staff met with the Dawson City Museum board of directors, providing information on funding available (DCM Minutes December 7 1982).

    Employment / Economic Policy

    The Government implemented a:

    Yukon wide employment stimulation program to assist Yukoners in obtaining employment over the winter months. The projects have been identified for this program on a community-by-community basis and are designed to provide maximum employment opportunities and to develop or upgrade community facilities which will be of a lasting benefit to the community

    Yukon 1983, 2.

    The program – the Local Employment Opportunities Program (LEOP) – was a Yukon Department of Community and Transportation Services program for short term jobs during the winter. Organizations within Dawson City more broadly benefited from this program:

    I would also like to bring to your attention the fact that there are a number of LEOP projects ongoing in my community at this time, which are basically fulfilling the same function. The Dawson Indian Band is doing restoration work on the old school house and cabins at Moosehide; the Dawson City Museum and Historical Society is constructing furniture, $64,000 in the Old Territorial Administration Building; Dawson Child Care Association is retrofitting and renovating the interior of its daycare centre for $31,000; Klondike Visitors Association is spending $50,000 for construction of an interpretive centre, the Jack London exhibit; Yukon Order of Pioneers have $60,000 to do foundation work, repairs and addition to the Pioneer Hall

    YLA 26.3.79

    Yukon Lottery Commission (YLC)

    The YLC provided a $1,000 for the Dawson City Museum to buy a microfilm reader.

  • 1983:

    Employment / Economic Policy

    The Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Cultural Resources applauded the jobs made available through the Yukon Tourism Agreement and Employment Development Fund supported by volunteers in the private sector, such as those with the Dawson City Museum (YLA 25.3.3).

    Explicit Museum Policy

    There was an ongoing plan to – possibly – develop a policy paper on museum policy (YLA 25.3.21).

    The Heritage Branch provided both museum grants and technical assistance to museums. In particular:

    • Grants: They distributed $60,000 in operating and maintenance costs and capital grants to six museums (this is later identified as a typographical error and in documents it says seven). They noted that $30,000 would again be provided for O&M. The capital was also 30,000.
    • Technical assistance: They allocated work hours to recruit a museums advisor, which was a need identified in the Kyte (1980) report. The Minister argued:

    This position will be of great benefit to all local museums by assisting them in developing improved displays, artifact care and staff training. 

    YLA 25.3.21

    In September, the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Cultural Resources released Preserving our Past: Policy Recommendations for the Protection and Management of Yukon’s Heritage Resources. The paper defined heritage value. For example:

    Nowhere is this economic importance more evident than in Yukon, where heritage development and interpretation contributes many millions of dollars to the Yukon economy. Dawson City is but one example

    Tourism, Heritage, and Cultural Resources 1983, 1

    There was a grant for capital projects and the purchase of museum artifacts:

    This $45,000 allows funds for capital projects and for the purchase of museum artifacts. It says that right in the description of the line item. It is also for start-up or reopening of museum

    YLA 25.3.34, 586
  • 1984:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Department responsible for museums became the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (YLA 25.4.39).

    The first territorial Museum Advisor was hired.

    There was a (new?) grant for conservation:

    This is to provide specialized funds for local museums to purchase conservation and artifact security equipment, for example, and do environmental monitoring, and fumigation chambers, and things such as that. It is just a small portion for the benefit of the museums.

    YLA 25.4.41, 795

    Tourism Policy

    The Department of tourism sponsored a $500,000 Tourism Incentives Programme. According to the Lord Report, just under 20% of the program went to Heritage. This included a $4, 920 grant to the Dawson City Museum for “planning.”

    Other Policy

    The Yukon Lottery Commission provided project grants to non-profit sports, recreation and arts organizations. As noted in the Lord Report, support to heritage was negligible until 1984-1985.

    Chart from page 52 of the Lord Report
  • 1985:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Department responsible for museums became the Department of Tourism (YLA 26.2.4).

    The Heritage Branch budget increased in two ways of relevance to community museums:

    • Advisory support:

    With a recoverable grant from National Museums of Canada we will be able to produce an operational handbook and to obtain additional reference technical materials which will be available and of assistance to all Yukon museums.

    YLA 26.2.7, 124
    • Grant funding:
      • continued operations and maintenance funding.
      • almost 50% of the cost for a Director position.
      • a matching grant for training and travel.

    We have also initiated a new Curator Director Assistants Program in the form of matching grants to our two largest museums, Dawson and McBride [sic]. This is to assist them in their efforts to become increasingly professional and successful. Tourism development has been strengthened through permanent staffing of two positions previously occupied by casual employees funded from capital program funds. It should be noted that these two additions do not represent any net increase in government expenditure. The change has been made out Of fairness to the employees concerned to provide a more realistic and more accurate picture of the expenditures to the Assembly and to provide some additional support and stability in the section which is so critical to long term planning and development of the industry

    YLA 26.2.7, 124

    The Dawson City Museum’s MLA – Art Webster – was an advocate for the Museum with colleague’s, playing an integral role in securing funding for the Museum’s renovations (DCM Presidents Report November 15 1985).

    Yukon Lottery Commission (YLC)

    Museums continued to be eligible for grants from the YLC. For example, a YLC grant enabled the Dawson City Museum to purchase a copy camera (DCM Directors Report November 15 1985).

  • 1986:

    Other Policy

    Yukon 2000 a consultation process about Yukon’s future began. It led to various discussion papers and reports of relevance:

    • Yukon Tourism Strategy: Discussion Paper
    • The Things that Matter: A Report of Yukoners’ views on the Future of their Economy and their Society (available here)
  • 1987:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    There were museum grants for:

    • Major artifact stabilization ($50,000)
    • Exhibit case construction ($50,000)
    • Major Exhibit Development ($175,000)
    • Conservation Security ($150,000)
      • The Lord report indicates this grant matches a Museums Assistance Program grant.
    • Major Museums Development ($175,000)

    The Heritage Branch received funding from the National Museums Corporation to hire a conservator for one year (YHMA 1987).

    Yukon Museums Policy and Systems Plan (also known as the Lord Report) circulated to museums.

  • 1988:

    Other Policy

    Yukon 2000 led to the following initiatives (YLA 26.5.1):

    • Community Development Fund (CDF)
    • Business Development Fund
    • Yukon Conservation Strategy
    • Yukon Tourism Action Plan
    • Yukon Economic Strategy: Yukon 2020 Building the Future (available here)

    Explicit Museum Policy

    There were consultations on a museum policy, using the Lord Report, with community museum boards, the Council of Yukon First Nations, and the Yukon Historical and Museums Association.

  • 1989:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Museum financial support included (YLA 27.1.15):

    • Major Exhibit Development
    • Museum Capital Contributions
    • Major museum development
    • Artifact Inventory / Catalogue
    • Conservation / Security

    Museums Policy (accessible here)

    The Heritage Branch commissioned the Computerized Needs Assessment for Yukon Museums (Porter 1989).

    The Museum Advisor circulated a draft Artifact Conservation and Security Policy for discussion (Meehan 1989)


The 1986 Lord Report observes that the municipality of Dawson City did not financially support the Museum and, in particular, does not provide support from the Recreation subsidy received from Yukon government.

Community Action

  • 1980:

    Museum Community

    The Yukon Historical and Museums Association commissioned a profile on museums in Yukon with funding from the federal Museums Assistance Program and Yukon Territorial Government. The report recommends:

    • A territorial policy and museum program;
    • A training program;
    • An advisory service;
    • A heritage resource center for training, conservation workshops, and an environmentally controlled space;
    • A review of existing organization; and
    • Encouragement for First Nations to attend training and participate in museums (Kate 1980).

    The report also found:

    Few Canadian Community Museums are as closely tied to the Tourist Industry as those located in Yukon. With visitors to the area outnumbering residents by, at least, ten to one, museum activities are chiefly tourist motivated, frequently at the expense of other museum responsibilities. Of the nearly 300,000 visitors entering Yukon annually it can be reliably assessed that up to 25% spend some time in one or more of the community museums during their travels. Though accurate attendance figures are generally unavailable there is supporting evidence that Whitehorse, Burwash, and Dawson are the principal points of museum contact in the Territory. During 1979 an aggregate total in excess of 50,000 visitors is estimated to have entered these three institutions.

    Kyte 1980, 4
  • 1981:

    Museum Community

    The Yukon Historical and Museums Association engage in advocacy with the Minister of Renewable Resources as well as the Minister of Information Resources and Education (McCormak 1981).

  • 1982:

    Museum Community

    The YHMA was not pleased at the lack of consultation and development of a territorial museum policy. The president noted:

    YHMA has been consulted with only marginally, informally, and after-the- fact, and not in such a way that we could bring these changes to the attention of the public. Essentially, we are being presented with a fait accompli, a set of significant changes which should have been outlined and justified in a long-promised and long-awaited working paper on heritage policy.

    McCormack 1982a, 9

    The YHMA held a workshop on a territorial heritage policy, noting three events led to the workshop:

    • Johnson’s “A Future for the Past,” which provided the basis for a similar workshop in 1980 – I have not accessed this document in full yet. If you have a copy, let me know!
    • Kyte report (1980)
    • YTG reorganization
  • 1983:

    Dawson Community

    There was a Music Fest and the Museum participated with a pancake breakfast (DCM Board minutes July 12 1983).

    Museum Community

    The BC Museums Association circulated a report, which helped the Dawson City Museum create accession and de-accession forms (DCM Minutes May 3, 1983).

  • 1984:

    Museum Community

    The YHMA made a submission to the Government about proposed heritage legislation. They argued the tourism function of heritage is important but:

    the heritage of a people is primarily a cultural business and we attempt to preserve, record and restore evidence of the past mainly that we should know who we are and what we are doing.

    YHMA 1984, 4

    As such, they called for the development of a museum policy addressing collection management, staff training and exhibition development.

  • 1989:

    Museum Community

    The Yukon Historical and Museums Association commissioned the Yukon Museums Marketing Plan


Do you know of any important milestones that are missing?

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


Aczel, Luby. 1989, December 4. Letter to the Museums Advisor. Correspondence Museum Assistance Program 1989. Box 15. Dawson City Museum Archive.

Baggaley, Valerie. 1989, February. Letter. Correspondence Director. Box 14. Dawson City Museum Archives.

CCI. 1990. Newsletter. Autumn / Winter.

CCI. 1989. Newsletter. Spring / Summer.

CCI. 1987. Newsletter. December.

Communications Canada. 1989. CCI Services. Canada.

Crook, Peg (Ed.). 1987. Newsletter. April. Yukon Historical and Museums Association. 

Dawson City Museum and Historical Society. 1983. “Dawson Museum News.” Newsletter, 13: 39-41.

Dawson City Museum. 1988. “Welcome to the Second Annual “Yukon Expressions.””Exhibits Art Show. Box 14. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Dorais, Leo. Letter to the Director of the Dawson Museum. 1984-85 MAP terms of reference. Box 7. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Graham, Russell D. 1981, June. Memo 3720-3-12. 6.6.1 OTAB 1979 to 1981. Box 5. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Grant, Christine. “Director’s Report.” 1982-1983 Reports. Native exhibit 1984 proposal to foundations. Box 8. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Heritage Branch. Tourism. Yukon. 1988. “ From the Heritage Branch.” Newsletter 1988 – 3. Yukon Historical and Museums Association. 

Jones-Gates, Kathy. 1981. “Museums update: Dawson City Museum.” YHMANewsletter. 7: 7-8.

Kyte, John E. 1980, November. Museums in Yukon: A Profile and Training Report. Prepared for Yukon Historical and Museums Association. 

McCall, Meg. 1982. “Address to the Workshop Delegates.”  Newsletter, 11: 33-34. 

McCawley, J.C. and Ward, P.R. 1980. “Regional Services: “helping museums help themselves.”” CCI: The Journal of the Canadian Conservation Institute. 4: 14-19.

McCormak, Pat. 1981. “YHMA at Work.” Newsletter, 8: 1-3.

McCormack, Pat. 1982a. “President’s Report.” Newsletter, 10: 6 – 10.

McCormack, Pat. 1982b. “Minutes: Spring General Meeting.” Newsletter, 11: 2-4. 

McCormack, Pat. 1982c. “Museums Update.” Newsletter, 10: 17 – 19.

Meehan, Joanne. 1989, October 26. Letter to the Museums Advisor. Museums Policy. Box 15. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Porter, Dave. 1982. “Presentation: CYI Discussion Paper.” Newsletter, 11: 22 – 27. 

Porter, David. 1989, February. Letter to the Dawson City Museum. Correspondence Director. Box 14. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Ross, Brian. 1982, September. Letter to the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Cultural Affairs. 7.7.10; grants 1981 1982. Box 5. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Ross, Brian. 1983. President’s / Executive Committee Report. 982-1983 Reports. Native exhibit 1984 proposal to foundations. Box 8. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Thorp, Valerie. 1984. Collections Committee. Collections Committee 1984. Box 8. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Tourism, Heritage, and Cultural Resources. 1983, September. Preserving our Past: Policy Recommendations for the Protection and Management of Yukon’s Heritage Resources. Government of Yukon. 

YHMA. 1981a. “Museums Update.” Newsletter, 8: 8.

YHMA. 1981b. “Notices.” Newsletter, 8: 21-22.

YHMA. 1982a. “YTG Heritage Branch.” Newsletter, 10: 21. 

YHMA. 1982b. “YHMA at Work.” Newsletter, 11: 1-2. 

YHMA. 1983a. “AGM 1982.” Newsletter, 12: 1.

YHMA. 1983b. “Notices.” Newsletter, 12: 52-53.

YHMA. 1986. March, 1986. Yukon Historical & Museums Association Newsletter.

YHMA. 1987, July.  Yukon Historical & Museums Ass. Newsletter.

YHMA. 1989, January. Newsletter.

YHMA. 1989, September. YHMA Newsletter. 

Yukon Historical and Museums Association. 1984. A Submission to the Government of Yukon Concerning the Proposed New Heritage Legislation. 

Yukon. 1983. Annual Report 1982-1983. 

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