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 examine the role of the Dawson City Museum as a community resource (Community Resource, Museum as Employer). In particular, I am considering the Museum as the community’s voice – that is, a place for the community to tell stories. Becoming a place for the community to tell its own stories is also a goal for current staff, but interview data demonstrates it was a reality for the Museum in the 1990s into the early 2000s.
In the 1990s, the Museum was seen as a community hub, telling the community’s stories. As one Interview Participant described:
Community involvement led to some interesting exhibitions about the community. One Interview Participant described “Dawson at Forty Degrees Below Zero”:
“Dogs” provides another example:
Ideas for these temporary exhibitions or programming came from the community. As a participant recalled:
Notably, the Museum also actively sought out community members’ contributions for traveling exhibition on the Gold Rush in the 1990s, circulating their stories to a broader audience.
In short, during the 1990s, the Museum was actively listening to and telling community stories through an active temporary and traveling exhibition program.
The Importance of Leadership
The timelines created for the project (1990s, 2000s, 2010s) and interview data suggest there has been a less dynamic temporary exhibition program since about 2006. There is no one change that explains the shift. However, some have pointed to the importance of leadership in creating the relationship needed in the community for the community to approach the museum with ideas and enthusiasm. Most notably, the Museum had a Director in the 1990s widely recognized as charismatic, drawing the community into the Museum:
Other changes that help explain the shift include a move from project based funding to more operational funding for museums at the territorial level, changes in employment considered in Museum as Employer, and the reality that the 1990s was a decade of anniversaries for the Yukon, which can contribute to more enthusiasm for heritage.
What do you think? How to museums become vehicles for the community to tell its own story?