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Archival Research: Declining Role of the Museum Advisor

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 examine the Museum Advisor’s role, which I started in The Importance of Presence. In particular, I consider the reduced relevance of the Museum Advisor to individual museums, like the Dawson City Museum, in the early 2000s.

As part of the consultations for the Museum Strategy in 2001, the Dawson City Museum’s Director submitted the following comments about the Museums Advisor:

Thistle, Paul. 2001, August. Response to Interview Questions. Strategy for Yukon museums. Box 29a. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Why is the submission interesting?

The submission is interesting because it outlines a change in the relationship between the Museum Advisor and individual museum workers.

In The Important of Presence, I looked at the Dawson City Museum’s Board meeting minutes to consider the assistance that both the territorial Heritage Branch Director and Museum Advisor provided to the Dawson City Museum. At the time, the Director and Advisor were physically present in the museum community and easily reachable by phone. As a result, they were able to provide assistance in response to issues.

The submission above indicates that the Museum Advisor was no longer as helpful as he once was. Historically, he had helped the Museum with their grant applications. However, in August 2001 the Museum had:

been waiting since April to hear word on Small Capital Grant programme applications for summer work.

see above

At the end of the summer, they had not heard anything from the Museum advisor. He was far less present in the Museum than he had been in the 1980s.

Is there broader relevance?

When the Museum Advisor was hired in 1984, six museums were receiving operational support. In 2001 – the date of the submission above – nine museums were receiving operational support from the territory and First Nations were beginning to develop cultural centers. At the same time, the territory had its own collections and opened the Beringia Centre.

As a result, the Museum Advisor had increasing responsibilities. In other words, he was becoming:

too overloaded with other responsibilities to provide proper and timely service to museums.

Thistle, Paul. 2001, August. Response to Interview Questions. Strategy for Yukon museums. Box 29a. Dawson City Museum Archives.

The addition of other museums, cultural centers, and territorial institutions to the Museum Advisors’ portfolio without the addition of more museum advisors provides an explanation for change. Although the articulated policy did not change, the policy changed in practice with fewer resources available to the museums through the advisor.

Questions

What do you think? Have I properly understood and explained this change in territorial policy?

References

Thistle, Paul. 2001, August. Response to Interview Questions. Strategy for Yukon museums. Box 29a. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Other Archival Research Posts

The Importance of Presence

Early Federal Influence

The Issue of Rent

The Beringia Center as Competitor

A Community of Community Museums?

Arguments Against Centralization

Community Mobilized

Too Much for One Person

Overwhelming Obstacles

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