Archival Research: A Community of Community Museums?

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 continue to look at the tensions between centralization (support for a territorial museum) and decentralization (support for a network of museums) within Yukon community museum policy. The first post on this topic is available here.

I am looking at the Minister of Tourism’s response to advocacy against exhibitions within a territorial Historic Resources Centre in 1989. Here are some excerpts from the letter, which I find most salient:

The following excerpts are quotes in the letter from the Yukon Historical and Museums Association’s (YHMA) advocacy on the topic:

Webster, Art. 1989, December 19. Letter to the President of the YHMA. YHMA museums committee. Box 16. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Why is this letter interesting?

I find this letter interesting because it demonstrates that, like the Dawson City Museum, the Yukon Historical and Museums Association (YHMA) was arguing against the development of a territorial museum or related institution in the late 1980s.

The Yukon Museums Policy (1989) mentions a Historic Resources Service Center, which would support the community museum sector. It states:

One of the Historic Resources Service Centre’s functions would be to support community museums by providing specialized services or services which are more economical when centralized. Such services would include a specialized computer data base for artifact collection management, and conservation support programs.

Museums Policy, 2

The YHMA had advocated for a Centre with this function in 1984 as part of heritage legislation consultations, stating:

YHMA RECOMMENDS that Government of Yukon act on these recommendations at the earliest possible time and that a Heritage Resource Centre be constructed which would minimally include facilities for collections management of archaeological and paleontological materials, as well as the capability to provide advice and assistance to community museums, as requested by them.

YHMA 1984, 23

Importantly, they did not advocate for a public education and display function, which was added to the Museums Policy (1989). The Policy gives the Centre a second function, stating:

Another function would be to provide public display and educational facilities as a means of heightening public awareness of Yukon’s historic resources.

Museums Policy, 2

The YHMA advocated against this function, expressing surprise at its inclusion. As quoted in the letter above:

All of the sudden it is going to the House looking more like the seeds of a Territorial Museum than a service centre for the heritage community.

See letter above

At the time (as a result of advocacy perhaps?), plans for a historic resource centre were not implemented.

Is there broader relevance?

The advocacy’s relevance is most apparent when compared to the YHMA’s reaction to a contemporary proposal for a Heritage Center. The re-elected Liberal’s promised a centralized Centre for “maintaining, conserving, exhibiting and interpreting” the Yukon’s collection as part of their election campaign (source).

The YHMA included a question about this proposal in their questions for parties during the campaign period. Here is the question and response:


Despite the question, I have found no evidence (yet?) the YHMA is campaigning against the centre, leading to a few questions:

  • Is the YHMA still actively advocating for community museums?
  • Is the creation of a museum-like institution no longer a concern for Yukon community museums?

I do not know the answers, but think the questions are relevant because they speak to a broader question – Is there a community of community museums working together in Yukon? In 1989, the answer seems to be yes. Currently, the answer seems less clear.


What do you think? Are these the same lessons you draw from the letter? Do you have potential answers to my questions?


Webster, Art. 1989, December 19. Letter to the President of the YHMA. YHMA museums committee. Box 16. Dawson City Museum Archives.

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

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