Interview Analysis: How do I Consider Space?

As part of the Dawson City Museum Project, I conducted fifteen interviews with people associated with the institution historically and today. Most of the transcripts have been approved. So, my Research Assistant and I are analyzing them now. The Interview Analysis series considers this analysis and the insights people have provided.

Within this post, I consider descriptions of the Old Territorial Administration Building (OTAB). The building and its relationship to the Dawson City Museum (DCM) is a major theme within both the interview and archival data. As such, I am writing a paper on the building, examining the challenges and benefits it has provided the Museum. However, I am a little stuck. I do not know how to consider the descriptions below.


The Old Territorial Administration Building

Those interviewed described the Old Territorial Administration Building, which has housed the Dawson City Museum since 1962, as an actor of incredible significance. Here are some examples:

Ultimately, the Museum Society managed to take up residence in the Old Territorial Administration Building.

A 1901 vintage building on Fifth Avenue prominently cited. When it was finished in 1901, the Old Territory Administration Building was the largest building in the north. It’s 200 feet long. It’s 2 and 1/2 stories high. It’s a beautiful old wooden building. It was built to house the government of the Yukon of the late nineteenth century.

We couldn’t have asked for a grander home in resplendent white neoclassical style, gently set back on dusty 5th avenue in the park-like setting. It all looks very much like a museum.


I think it’s quite a grand building, so it’s a lovely space to be in. It elevates the quality of our exhibits from them being in that space, but also, I think it makes people expect great things…

It definitely was a pleasure to work in that space and I think it improves the Museum for it. If we were just in any old building, we’d still be great, but it wouldn’t be as good.


The Old Territorial Administration Building and the Museum’s Development

The Old Territorial Administration Building (OTAB( has played a significant role in the Dawson City Museum’s development. For example, the OTAB is a government owned building and the Museum’s occupancy reflects a significant form of support without which the Museum may have closed after a fire in 1960.

The space also tangibly influences the exhibitions, which are designed with location in mind. In particular, the new exhibition cases work with the architecture. The architecture also shapes how visitors move through the building and therefore how the exhibition themes are laid out.

While there are a number concrete examples of the building’s influence, the quotes above suggest a more intangible influence – that is, the building looks like a grand museum, which effects perception.

People use words like “resplendent” to describe the space. They derive pleasure from working there and visiting. I experienced this while doing archival work in the Museum. Approaching the building in darkness was awe inducing. Sitting in the old council chambers reading letters from the 1950s felt inspiring.

According to at least one person interviewed, the space also elevates the exhibitions. People begin to both expect and see greatness. As a researcher with a love for more concrete data, I do not know how to talk about this reality.


What role does a museum space have on the ways people experience the exhibitions?

Do historic sites confer additional legitimacy to museums?

Have you ever been to the Dawson City Museum and, if so, what did you think about the space? What effect, if any, do you think it had on your experience?

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