Archival Research: Government Relationships

After a very intensive week in the Dawson City Museum (DCM) archives, I am sorting, reading, and analyzing what I found. The documents scanned are interesting and contributing to the narrative(s) about the DCM’s development. In order to help with the analysis, the “Archival Research” series considers the stories archival materials tell, looking at the items I found most exciting.  

Within this post, I am looking at a letter sent to the Dawson City Museum (DCM) Director from the Klondike’s MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly). Here it is (without contact information):

5.5.50 YTG grant etc re : repairing Dawson museum 1980. Box 5. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Why is the letter interesting?

In 1979, the Museum failed a fire inspection. The inspector wrote (in another letter I found fascinating):

To be completely honest, up until the time of the familiarization tour that you guided for the members of the Fire Department, I considered the Museum as a large “fire trap”. However, since the tour, I believe a more accurate term is a large “death trap”. These are dramatic terms, but I believe they are realistic

Rehn 1979, 1

The Museum did not have the funds to fix the “death trap” (otherwise known as the Old Territorial Administration building). Since the territory owned (and still owns) the building, the DCM asked the government to pay for at least some of the upkeep.

The Territory responded with a one-time grant of $14,000.The Minister noted,

the grant demonstrates the territorial government’s continuing commitment to develop Dawson as a major tourist destination point and to upgrade visitor facilities in the community. The museum is a tourist attraction but, more importantly, it also represents a significant part of Yukon’s heritage and culture.

(Senger 1980)

The MLA from Klondike was a member of the party in power and the Minister of Health and Human Resources. She was particularly interested in Yukon history and provided invaluable support internally for the museum to get the grant. She wrote the letter above in response to a thank you letter from the Museum. The letter made a specific reference to the Minister’s responsibilities:

As you must be aware, we were all pleased and somewhat overwhelmed at the generosity of the grant, and hope that every penny can be well spent… especially with respect to the washroom facilities… we don’t want to add to the Health problems of the Yukon if we possibly can!!!!

Museum Director 1981

The letter also thanks the Minister for her specific contribution, discussing its effects:

We understand that your support was invaluable and knowing your own particular interest in Yukon History, I am sure you will know how much more important this grant is to us. It leaves us free to continue planning for the summer, and a feeling of satisfaction that we have support in the Yukon Government for Yukon history.

Museum Director 1981

The Museum did, in fact, have support in the Yukon Government. Following the receipt of this funding, they were able to successfully advocate for a 2.9 million dollar renovation.

Is there broader relevance?

I think the letter shows a friendly attitude toward the Museum and the presence of advocates within government. For example, the Minister notes:

We couldn’t possibly star a tourist season without our museum opening, (with plumbing yet — no more dashes across the road to McDonald Lodge!)

See letter above

The quote demonstrates the Minister’s specific knowledge about the institution, which was not stated in the thank you letter – that is, they used the washrooms at McDonald Lodge. It also positions the Minister and Museum as a team and part of the same community with the use of “we” and “our.”

The friendly attitude and government support the letter demonstrates likely contributed to the support the Museum received in the 1980s. For more on the importance of good government relationships and awareness, check out post “The Importance of a Marvelous Lunch,” also addresses this theme.


What do you think? Do you think this letter is important in a consideration of the Dawson City Museum’s development? Why or why not?


Museum Director. 1981, January 28. Letter to the Minister. 5.5.50 YTG grant etc re : repairing Dawson museum 1980. Box 5. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Rehn, Rick. 1979, June. Letter to the Museum director. 4a.4.15: Fire inspection 1979, Box 4. Dawson City Museum Archives, Dawson City.

Senger, Dennis. 1980, January 8. “Repair Grant for Dawson Museum.” News Release. 5.5.50 YTG grant etc re : repairing Dawson museum 1980. Box 5. Dawson City Museum Archives. 

5 thoughts on “Archival Research: Government Relationships

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: