After a very intensive week in the Dawson City Museum archives, I am sorting, reading, and analyzing what I found. In order to help with analysis, I discussed archival documents as part of the Archival Research series. The Archival Photo Finds series similarly considers the stories archival photos can tell.
In 1977, Dawson City celebrated its Diamond Jubilee year:
In preparation for the celebrations, the Dawson City Museum employed people to create Jubilee Dolls under the banner “Big Cabin Crafts.” Within this post, I look at photos of these Jubilee Dolls and their creation.
What can we learn from these pictures?
The Dawson City Museum facilitated Big Cabin Crafts, using a Local Initiatives Program (LIP) grant in winter 1976. LIP was a federal employment program, which enabled the Museum’s first director/curator to work year-round.
Big Cabin Crafts and the picture above of people creating the dolls illustrates the Museum’s relationship to the community as an employer. Importantly, LIP provided employment in areas, such as Dawson City, suffering due to de-industrialization in the 1970s. The funding allowed the Museum to serve the community’s needs by providing winter employment to a number of people.
In short, government policy influenced the Museum through the provision of an employment grant, which helped the Museum better serve community needs.
What are some of the lasting impacts of LIP and Big Cabin Crafts on the Museum?
There are several lasting impacts of the Jubilee Doll project:
- One of the dolls is still on display at the Museum as part of a display on celebrations.
- Employment and more general project grants became the primary means through which the Museum supported paid staff.
- When the territory established a grant program explicitly for museums in the 1980s with a curator salary component, advocates pointed to the work accomplished at the Dawson City Museum when they employed someone year-round.
In short, the use of an LIP grant for Big Cabin Crafts led to a doll in the collection, provided a template for museum employment that continues today, and demonstrated the value of year round employment, which informed the development of a territorial grant program.
Short term employment and other project grants continue to be a source of funding for staff within museums in what is now called Canada. What effect do you think this has on community museum development and capacity?