Case Study: Dawson City Museum Timeline, 1990s

Last Updated: January 24, 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

In some ways, the 1990s were the Golden Years for the Museum. Due to the availability of project grants and employment funding, the Dawson City Museum (DCM) was a flurry of activity. In particular, the DCM expanded the resources available and established a library, digitized collection records, engaged in cataloguing work, renewed exhibitions, and started a major capital project.

Notably, the DCM did not experience the effects of government austerity measures, which are typically described by museum workers as defining the 1990s, until the end of the decade. The difference is likely due to the funding and attention associated with Centennial celebrations in Yukon during that time.

  • 1990:


    Using Small Capital Grants from the territorial government, the Museum engaged in cataloguing work and train stabilization (Directors Report February 27, 1990). There was concern about the condition of the outdoor artifacts – that is, the trains – and a desire for a protective structure (Director’s Report October 23 1990).

    The Museum accessioned 1,295 artifacts (Collection Committee Report May 3 1991). Highlights from the year’s acquisitions included (Collection Committee Report May 3 1991):

    • KVA document collection
    • a 1919 unused calendar from Robert Service
    • Big Alex McDonald’s cash register
    • a NWMP tunic
    • a program from the 1st Percy DeWolf memorial mail race, autographed by the participants and volunteers


    The Museum received funding to buy a computer and funded staff / board member enrollment in Yukon College computer courses (Directors Report February 27, 1990; Director’s Report March 27 1990).


    Using Small Capital Grants from the territorial Government, the Museum developed a model train display, a nightlife display, and signage for the train display (Directors Report February 27, 1990). The Museum received capital funding to upgrade the permanent exhibitions and photographs on display (Director’s Report June 26 1990).

    Temporary exhibitions in the court room included (Director’s Report May 15 1990):

    • the Dawson City Music Festival art auction
    • Kennedy Bradshaw Yukon Friends photography show
    • Annual Art Show
    Exhibits and Displays. Box 16. Dawson City Museum Archives.

    Grants received

    The Museum Received the following grants in 1990/91 (Director’s Report 1990 AGM):

    YTG – Heritage BranchDirector’s Wage support$14,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchOperations & Maintenance$4,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchDirector’s Professional Development$1,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchCatalogue Project $4,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchDisplay Photograph re vamp $10,915
    YTG – Heritage BranchExhibitions Upgrading Project $11,128
    YTG – Heritage BranchEquipment/Book Purchase$2,490
    YTG – Heritage BranchStorage Facility Development Project $20,000
    FederalCanada Job Development?
    FederalChallenge Grant$20,712
    FederalResource Room Worker20 weeks
    Lotteries YukonAdmin Assistance – wage support$2,100
    Lotteries YukonBook Purchase$700
    Canadian Council of ArchivesArchival backlog reduction$19,400
    YTG – Community Development FundPhoto finding aid Part II$44, 480

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum hosted CCI workshops on mounting techniques and furniture restoration (Directors Report January 9, 1990).

    Using Small Capital Grants from the territorial Government, the Museum worked on a slide show of the Twelve Mile Ditch (Directors Report February 27, 1990).


    The Museum continued to use employment grants for staffing. For example, in 1990 Museum staff included (Directors Report January 9, 1990, Directors Report February 27, 1990; Director’s Report May 15 1990):

    • a Job Creation grant provided 17 weeks for a photography project and office assistance;
    • a Community Development Fund (CDF) grant provided three positions – photography supervisor, photographer, and archivist technician;
    • a later CDF provided funding for a photo finding aid project, which included work for 2 photographers and 2 cataloguers;
    • a photographer through a 5 week Canadian Council of Archives grant
    • a Yukon Employment Incentives Program provided funding for a research librarian;
    • Lotteries Yukon provided funding for an Administrative Assistant;
    • Student employees (four tour guide, one research librarian, and one maintenance worker) through the Challenge 90 program; and
    • a capital contribution grant from YTG provided funding for a cataloguer to work for 8 weeks on the existing backlog.
  • 1991:


    The Museum held the following art shows (DCM Minutes July 9 1991):

    • Halin DeRepentigny Art Exhibit
    • Danielle Shula’s art show
    • Yukon Expressions


    From 1986 to 1991 the Museum had spent over $400,000 on collections management with only $60,000 contributed directly from the Museum (DCM Minutes October 24 1991).

    The Museum engaged in the Registration Test Project. The territorial Collections Registration Co-ordinator facilitated the project, which involved three people hired to catalogue more than 800 artifacts (Acting Director’s Report April 29, 1992).

    Using a Community Development Fund Grant, the Museum worked on reproducing its original photograph collection and creating an index. Examples included the Chief Isaac Family Collection (YHMA 1991):

    The Museum also received funding from Yukon Lotteries and the Heritage Branch to expand their resource library (YHMA 1991).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum hired a photographer to develop the sound slide show “Dawson at Forty Degrees Below Zero,” which was designed to answer what the City was like in winter.

    The Museum implemented a lecture series to raise community awareness of the Museum (AGM Minutes April 29 1992). Topics included (YHMA 1991, September):

    • Early Placer Mining Techniques
    • Building of the White Pass & Yukon Railway
    • Yukon Prehistory
    • Dredge No. 4
    • Yukon Ditch


    The Museum struggled to have a display committee (DCM Minutes July 27 1991 and August 21 1991).

  • 1992:


    The Museum upgraded their security system with funding from the Heritage Branch (YHMA 1992a). They also planned to upgrade their storage facilities (YHMA 1992b).

    The Victory Garden was completed, changing the space around the Museum (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 2).


    The Museum created a finding aid for the Caley Collection, which included rare books, papers, business ledgers, maps, and newspapers (DCM Newsletter Vol. 10 no. 4).

    Using a Community Development Fund Grant, the Museum worked to make Mining Recorders Records more accessible (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 2).


    The Museum opened its visible storage exhibit (DCM Newsletter vol. 10 no. 6).

    The Museum opened its visible storage exhibit (DCM Newsletter Vol. 10 no. 6).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum offered a workshop on photo conservation with funding from the Canadian Council of Archives and a presenter from the National Archives (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 1).


    DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 2

  • 1993:


    The Museum received Museums Assistance Program funding to begin researching and designing Klondike Gold – a traveling exhibition celebrating the anniversary of the Gold Rush (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 2).

    The Museum hosted an exhibition of paintings in the court room for the summer (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 2).

    The Museum developed an exhibition marking the centennial of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, which was installed around Dawson City (See documents available in YTG YOOP exhibit, Box 21a, Dawson City Museum Archives).


    Using grants from the Canadian Council of Archives, the Museum worked to upgrade archival storage and produce an inventory (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 2).

    “Klondike” Kate Rockwell’s dress (below) returned from receiving conservation treatment at the Canadian Conservation Institute (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 3).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum hosted an oral history workshop (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 1).

    The Museum worked to provide curriculum linked programming (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 2):

    DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 2

    The lecture series continued.

    The Museum acquired a gold-melting furnace for the upcoming traveling exhibition. In order to trial the device, the Museum had gold-pouring demonstrations during the summer (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 3).

    DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 3

    The Museum began to have live performances in the space, which were a main attraction. The most popular performance was called Discovery Claims, which involved multiple characters claiming to have found the first nugget (DCM Newsletter vol. 11 no. 3).

  • 1995:


    The Museum installed a fire suppression and sprinkler system with funding from the territorial heritage branch and Department of Canadian Heritage (YHMA 1994). For more information see: Fire vs. Heritage.


    Klondike Gold – a DCM traveling exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold in the Yukon – was at the Yukon Arts Centre. The exhibition included a CD ROM game with films, photos, and archival records (YHMA 1994, December).

    The permanent exhibitions “received a facelift.” For example:

    DCM Newsletter vol. 12 no. 1

    The Museum hosted two special exhibitions – “Too Thick to Drink, Too Think To Plow” and “Sketchbooks by George Back (1796-1878) Overland to the Arctic with Sir John Franklin” (DCM Newsletter vol. 12 no. 1).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum collaborated with Dawson First Nation and the YHMA on a conference about life on the River.

    The Museum began to partner with Parks Canada to supply dramatic performances for their interpretive tours in Dawson (DCM Newsletter vol. 12 no. 1; see documents available in 95 seed challenge, Box 23b, Dawson City Museum Archives).


    In 1994/95 the Museum employed 50 people with payroll of $344,180 (DCM Newsletter vol. 12 no. 1).

  • 1996:


    With funding from the Heritage Branch, the Museum worked on registering the collections in storage and data entry of the collections records (YHMA 1996).


    With funding from the Heritage Branch, the Museum upgraded their Klondike Railway Train exhibit (YHMA 1996).


    The Museum continued to use short term grants or staffing. For example:

    • The Canada/Yukon Summer Career Placement Program provided 103 work weeks for nine University students who worked in interpretation and the gift shop (Swackhammer 1996a).
    • The first Young Canada Works in Heritage offered through the Canadian Museums Association provided 49 work weeks for five high school students. They worked as a cataloguer’s assistant and as part of the interpretation / gift shop team (Swackhammer 1996b).
  • 1997:


    The Museum hosted a photography exhibition – “Neath the Midnight Sun” with help from the Yukon Arts Branch (DCM Newsletter vol. 13 no. 2).

    The Museum opened “A New Look at Old Landscapes – the glacial history of the Dawson Region” (DCM Newsletter Nov. 1997).

  • 1998:


    Although the Museum had occupied the Old Territorial Administration Building (OTAB) since 1962, it did not have a lease. At the request of Yukon Property Management, they entered negotiations that started at a rent of $10,000 (DCM Minutes 14 January 1998).

    The Museum began a multi-year process to upgrade the train shelter and conserve the locomotives with funding from the Community Development Fund, Heritage Branch, and Museums Assistance Program (DCM Newsletter vol. 14 no. 1).

    The Museum also began a new storage facility with funding from the Lind Family Foundation and Community Development Fund, but weather caused delays (DCM Newsletter vol. 14 no. 1).


    The Museum worked with the Robert Service School to create a Family Treasures Exhibit (Annual General Meeting Director’s Report 1999).

    The Museum’s traveling exhibit – Klondike Gold – went to the West Vancouver Museum (Heritage Vancouver 1998).


    Museum donors, donating books and other resources, asked the Museum to develop an appropriate history library to house the collection alongside the Museum’s archives and other resources (DCM Minutes 14 January 1998). The Library was dedicated in July (DCM Minutes 8 July 1998).

    Programming (other)

    The Museum hosted or participated in 16 events from May to October, such as the Canadian Museums Association study tour and conference (Annual General Meeting Director’s Report 1999).

    Throughout 1998, the Museum held special programming associated with the centennial of the Klondike Gold Rush (DCM Newsletter Nov. 1997).


    The Museum provided employment for 28 people with a payroll over $250,000 (Annual General Meeting Director’s Report 1999).

  • 1999:


    The Museum adopted a new statement of intent (DCM Newsletter Vol. 15 no. 1).


    YTG – Heritage BranchOperations & Maintenance$23,00
    YTG – Heritage BranchMove & Shelving$145,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchLind Galery$15,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchRegistration Support$15,000
    Lotteries YukonLind Gallery$20,000
    City of DawsonOperating$10,000
    Federal – Museums Assistance ProgrammeMove & Shelving$48,600
    Federal – HRDCSupper Career Placement$13923
    Canadian Museums AssociationYoung Canada Works$2,334
    Canadian Museums AssociationProfessional Development$750
    Canadian Library AssociationYoung Canada Works$2,406
    Heritage Canada FoundationYoung Canada Works$2,406
    Canadian Council of ArchivesYoung Canada Works$2,406
    Canadian Council of ArchivesControl of Holdings$4,077
    Yukon Historical and Museums AssociationProfessional Development$750
    Klondike Regional Training Trust FundProfessional Development$750
    FoundationProfessional Development$750
    DCM AGM May 2000


    The Museum continued to access employment programs, including Young Canada Works grants from the Canadian Museums Association, the Canadian Council of Archives, and the Canadian Library Association. A grant from the Heritage Branch enabled the Museum to hire people for collections work (DCM Newsletter vol. 15 no. 2).

Government Policy

First Nation


In past research, federal cuts to cultural funding emerged as highly significant to museum development in the 1990s. Surprisingly, these have been mentioned very little in interviews and documents related to the Dawson City Museum Project.

  • 1990:

    Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

    The CCI presented:

    • “Artifact Mounting Workshop” at the Dawson City Museum (CCI 1990, September).
    • “Field Conservation Techniques” at the Canadian Archaeological Association Conference in Whitehorse (CCI 1991, March).
    • “Emergency and Disaster Planning in Museums” at the Old Log Church Museum in Whitehorse (CCI 1991, March).

    Museums Assistance Program (MAP)

    A MAP employee conducted a security review of the Dawson City Museum (Acting Director’s Report April 29, 1992).

    Parks Canada

    In 1984, Parks Canada had been asked to store objects, such as an oil painting, for the Museum as it conducted renovations for the period of the renovation. In 1990, three years after the Museum’s re-opening, Parks Canada still had the oil painting (see documents available in admin correspondence KNHS. Box 17b. Dawson City Museum Archives).

  • 1995:

    Museums Assistance Program (MAP)

    There were cuts to MAP and then the Minister of Canadian Heritage did not attend a Canadian Museums Association conference. The museum community had a moment of silence for MAP, putting a black ribbon on the podium (McAcvity 1995).

    Parks Canada

    Parks Canada began to reduce its public presentations and street theater (Swackhammer 1995).

  • 1996:

    Employment Policy

    The Canadian Museums Association administered Young Canada Works for the first time (see documents available in YCW CMA 1996, Box 23, Dawson City Museum Archives).

  • 1997

    Employment Policy

    Human Resources and Development Canada reduced the Dawson City Museum Summer Career Placement grants by 39 % (DCM Newsletter vol. 13 no. 2).

  • 1999:

    Cultural Policy

    A Sense of Place, A Sense of Being – The Evolving Role of the Federal Goverament in Support of Culture released

    Parks Canada

    Parks Canada published Draft Management Plans for the Dawson City Historical Complex and Dredge no. 4 (DCM Newsletter vol. 15 no. 3).

Canada – Yukon

  • 1990:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Federal support influenced the development of territorial support for artifact inventory:

    The second initiative is under the artifact inventory catalogue project. We have received a grant from the federal museums assistance programs that will provide 100 percent of the cost to undertake a planning pilot project for the registration and automation of museum collection record.

    YLA 27.2.17

    At the request of the Territorial Museum Advisor, staff from the federal Museum Assistance Program conducted a security evaluation of the Dawson City Museum (Kelly 1990).

  • 1994:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territorial Heritage Branch sponsored Canadian Conservation Institute Workshops (YHMA 1994).


During the 1990s, the territorial government continued the museum policy and programs established in the 1980s with new programs related to federal support (see above). Importantly, the 1990s involved support and attention to anniversaries in the territory.

  • 1990:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The YTG Museum budget decreased by 43% (Directors Report January 9, 1990). The Heritage Branch’s Director reported on these cuts at the Dawson City Museum’s annual general meeting in April, advising the Museum to seek funding from alternative sources like the Community Development Fund. He also suggested the Museum develop a traveling exhibition on the Gold Rush due to the importance of the Yukon Anniversaries Commission (AGM Minutes April 27 1990)

    The territorial conservator helped the Dawson City Museum with projects (Director’s Report March 27 1990).

  • 1991:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territorial government hired a Collections Registration Coordinator to facilitate the Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing project for the Heritage Branch (see documents in Admin correspondence director misc. Box 17b. Dawson City Museum Archives).

    Heritage Policy

    Historic Resources Act

  • 1992:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Museums Artifact Conservation Policy

    Tourism / Museum Policy

    The Yukon Gold Explorers Passport Program was introduced (and continues today).

    Yukon Lotteries Commission

    The Yukon Lotteries Commission (YLC) met with representatives from the City of Whitehorse and Yukon Recreation Advisory Committee (YRAC) to consider a request from the MacBride Museum for increased support to administration wages for winter programming. The YLC issued a statement with the YRAC saying:

    Y.R.A.C. and Y.L.C. are not receptive to the idea of being responsible for providing ongoing operating and maintenance grants to Yukon museums. In fact, we believe that operating grants to museums are the joint responsibility of the Heritage Branch of Y.T.G. and the community in which the museum is located.

    Beaumont 1994
  • 1994:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Heritage Branch funding focused on the decade of anniversaries, including the museums exhibit assistance program. For example:

    Specifically, support will be provided to the MacBride Museum for their Northwest Mounted Police/RCMP travelling exhibit, to the Dawson City Museum for their Klondike gold rush anniversary travelling exhibit and to one of my favourite museums, the Keno Museum, to complete the new exhibit development work

    YLA 28.2.80

    There were funding programs titled:

    • Museums Assistance, which included “for the Dawson Museum, the Yukon Order ofPioneers centennial exhibit was $12,200; the sprinkler design was $10,000; self-guided tours was $7,800; computer upgrade, $2,500” (YLA 28.1.81).
    • Exhibits Assistance, which included “$35,000 for the Dawson City Museum for a gold discovery exhibit” (YLA 28.1.81).
    • Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing
    • Conservation and Security

    Yukon Lottery Commission

    The Yukon Lottery Commission restated their position that museums are the responsibility of the Heritage Branch and local community (Beaumont 1994).

  • 1997:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Dawson City Museum received (DCM Newsletter vol. 13 no. 2):

    • operation and maintenance funding
    • project funding for:
      • cataloging and registering a backlog of artifacts
      • an exhibition on glacial and geological history of the Klondike mining district
      • upgrading the Klondike Mines railway interpretation
      • research on the history of tourism in Dawson.
    • Conservation assistance for textiles

    The Operational and Maintenance funding formula changed to include a component tied to memberships and fundraising (See documents available in Correspondence director 1997-1998, Box 25, Dawson City Museum Archives).

    Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre opened

    Tourism / Museum Policy

    The Passport program underwent review (See documents available in Correspondence director 1997-1998, Box 25, Dawson City Museum Archives)

  • 1998:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territorial government designed a collection management database for community museums with a master copy at each museum and a copy on the Registration computer in Yukon government (Ball 2004).

  • 1999:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    There were decreases in the Museum support program:

    From 1996-97 to 1999-2000, we’ve got a21-percent decrease in the capital funding to museums. In the historic sites area, from 1996-97 to 1999-2000,we’ve got a 31-percent decrease – we’re talking $881,000 down to $605,000… The museums assistance in 1996-97 was $467,000. The estimate for this year is $314,000. That’s 33-percent down. The interpretive signage was $245,000 in 1996-97 and is $125,000 now. That’s almost a 49-percent decrease.

    YLA 29.1.157


  • 1995:

    The City of Dawson began to provide funding from the Centennial Events Fund to offset costs of summer student wages (DCM Newsletter vol. 12 no. 2)

  • 1997:

    The City of Dawson provided $10, 000 through its Centennial Events Fund to continue offsetting the Museum’s interpretive staff wages (DCM Newsletter vol. 13 no. 2)

  • 1998:

    The City of Dawson continued to provide a grant to the Dawson City Museum to offset summer student wages (Annual General Meeting Director’s Report 1999).

Community Action

Most importantly, the 1990s were a decade of activity related to anniversary celebrations.

  • 1991:

    Museum Community

    The Yukon Historical and Museums Association held an introductory computer workshop, involving the Canadian Heritage Information Network and the Ontario Museum Association’s Trillium project (YHMA 1991)

  • 1998: It was the centennial of the Klondike Gold Rush, leading to an increase in visitors to Dawson City.

  • 1999:

    Museums Community

    The Yukon Museums and Historical Association engaged in consultation to develop a strategic plan (Coop 2000/2001, Winter).


Do you know of any important milestones that are missing?

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


Ball, Drew. 2004. Museums Status Report. Blue Binder. Box 33. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Beaumont, Doug. 1994, November 24. Letter to the Dawson City Museum, Sports and lotteries paper. Box 22. Dawson City Museum Archives.

CCI. 1991, March. Newsletter. 7.

CCI. 1990, September. Newsletter. 6.

Copp, Marjorie. 2000/2001. “YHMA Strategic Plan.” Yukon Historical & Museums Association Newsletter. Winter.

Heritage Vancouver. 1998, November. “Mark your Calendar: Ongoing to December 19, 1998 – Klondike Gold.” Heritage Vancouver Newsletter 7(11).

Kelly, Wayne. 1990, November. Security Review. Security Report Museums Assistance Program. Box 16. Dawson City Museum Archives.

McAvity, John. 1995, Summer. “Advocacy Alert: Urgent! Act Now to Stop Cuts.” Newsletter: 5.

Neufeld, David. 1995, Summer. “Life on the River: A Conference in Dawson City.” Newsletter: 6-7.

Swackhammer, Mc. 1995. Letter to the Canada Employment Centre. 95 SEED Challenge. Box 23b. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Swackhammer, Mac. 1996a. Final Report. Summer Students SEED 1996. Box 23. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Swackhammer, Mac. 1996b. Final Report. YCW CMA 1996. Box 23. Dawson City Museum Archives.

YHMA. 1991, January. “Museum News: Dawson Museum.” Newsletter: 1.

YHMA. 1991, May. “Museum News.” Newsletter: 2. 

YHMA. 1991, September. “News Continues: Dawson City Museum.” YHMA September 1991 Newsletter: 4-5. 

YHMA. 1992a, April. “Update on Yukon Museums: Dawson City Museum & Historical Society.” Newsletter.

YHMA. 1992b, December. “News from the Yukon Museums…” Newsletter: 4-5.

YHMA. 1994, Fall. “Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) Workshops on Artifacts.” YHMA Newsletter: 3. 

YHMA. 1994, December. “Summary: Yukon Museum Activities.” YHMA Newsletter: 5-6.

YHMA. 1996, summer. “Museums Update: Dawson City Museum.” Newsletter. 

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