Interview Analysis: Community Resource

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 am continuing to engage with the curator interview and the question – What is the Dawson City Museum’s role? Notable, the Museum was founded as part of an effort to encourage tourism and its static exhibitions primarily appealed to tourist (As discussed in Tourism Role). The new exhibitions, which opened in 2021, reflect a desire to be more responsive to and reflective of their community, becoming a community resource beyond tourism.


As discussed elsewhere, the Dawson City Museum is a tourism attraction. For example, in an interview, the curator stated:

The Dawson City Museum at large in the community, I don’t think is really viewed right now, unfortunately, as a hub, whether it’s for events, or for research or for programs, or to come and see the exhibit. It’s very much viewed as, let’s bring visiting family or tourists to see them.


Importantly, the Museum is undergoing change. A current objective is for the Museum to be more reflective of the community’s diverse needs.

I really want the Dawson City Museum to become a community resource for research, for recreation, for understanding, or whatever. I feel like that is my chief goal, rather than just become an attractive tourist attraction.


The new exhibitions, which opened in 2021, reflect this desire to become a community museum for the community, reflecting the community and responding to its needs. To that end, the Klondike Gold Rush is not as centered in story telling as it once was. The curator explained:

With the new exhibits going up, we definitely are making a more concerted effort to be more reflective, and maybe responsive, to our community. I want to say responsive is definitely a way where we have a lot to learn, and a lot to go to be genuinely responsive, but I mean more so to be better storytellers for Dawson City. I think, we see the importance as a small town museum to actually be that small town’s museum, to be a community museum rather than just a tourist attraction, and in doing so, wanting to tell stories beyond that Gold Rush period.


Rather than focusing on the Gold Rush, the new exhibitions center the people of the Klondike, telling a story of survival and prosperity through adaptation and change:

I think the story of the Klondike, beyond the Gold Rush, is fascinating. It is one of adaption, one of survival, and that should be appreciated as much as the Gold Rush. It’s something that I hope visitors from afar would like to learn about. And I, even more, sincerely hope that community members really want to reflect on.


Further, in their daily work, museum staff are focused on building relationships within the community in order to:

be responsive to their requests, and their interests, and also trying to be part of new stories developing, whether it’s in the work on Truth and Reconciliation we did or helping certain projects out around town.

In short, the Museum staff is working to be seen as a community resource in addition to being a tourists destination. Importantly, the Museum has played a variety of roles within its community over time. As such, subsequent interview analysis posts will explore other roles the museum has had, which reflect both community need and government policies that have changed over time.


I always struggle with this question – When museums say their role is as a community resource, what does that mean in practice?

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