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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.

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 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


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

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


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

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


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


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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