Comment Response: The Lord Report

In response to “Territorial Interest and Investment” Paul Thistle (I highlight recommend his blog – Solving Task Saturation for Museum workers) left the following comment:

Re: “New Territorial Museum Policy . . . not in place until 1989-1990” section, In this light, I believe it would be worthwhile to investigate the following report & its background: Lord, Gail Dexter & Lord, Barry. 1986. Yukon Museums Policy and System Plan. Whitehorse, YT: Government of Yukon. My related questions would be: i) Why was it commissioned & what were the goals of this research project? ii) How much local research was carried out? iii) How was this accomplished? iv) What was the ultimate impact of the EXTERNAL consultants’ report on the new policy? & vi) Was what happened ‘on the ground’ after the implementation of “new policy” effective and/or worthwhile for DCM? [NOTE: Paul’s definition of “policy” is: what ACTUALLY happens ‘on the ground’ in the real world for the museums being ‘governed’ by the policy directives.]

Paul Thistle

My response in the comment section got far too long so I have decided to create a post directly responding instead.


Yukon Museums Policy and System Plan is a two volume report prepared in 1986 by Lord Cultural Resources Planning and Management Inc with Lori Patterson Jackson and Linda R. Johnson. I will refer to the report herein as the Lord Report.

Unfortunately, I cannot post the Report due to a 50 year copyright on government publications. However, if you are looking for a copy, please send me a message… I have tried to summarize the main points below.

Report Summary

Volume one outlines a proposed support system for Yukon community museums. Broadly, they proposed a policy whereby

Heritage Branch will endeavour to assist the provision of decentralized access to Yukon’s heritage wherever consistent with cost-effectiveness.

Lord Report, Vol 1, x

To that end, they recommended standards with requirements for different grants, which included operations, capital projects, salaries, training, and publications.

Supporting the recommendations, Volume one outlines the context for museums in Yukon, including the territorial geography and actors supporting the sector. Volume two compiles background papers that provide in depth information about Yukon museum development, legislation and policy, as well as comparative museum systems

Research Limitation

Before answering the questions provided, it is important for me to acknowledge a major research limitation – I was not able to interview the Museums Advisor who began in the 1980s and worked in that capacity into the 2000s. As a result, I am missing a key perspective that may have changed my analysis of the Lord Report and its influence.

Why was it commissioned? What were the goals of this research project?

The Yukon Heritage Branch commissioned the report with the following goals:

1. Formulation of a long term (systems) development plan for Yukons present and future museums.

2. Formulation of a draft Yukon Museums Policy.

Lord Report, Vol. 2, 108

The terms of reference asked the report to address:

  • historic museum development in Yukon
  • individual museum assessment
  • legislation and policy analysis
  • museum model review

How much local research was carried out?

The short answer is: a lot.

Most importantly, two Yukoners helped write / research report – Lori Patterson Jackson and Linda R. Johnson – and the Museums Advisor supervised the study, responding to questions as needed. The research also involved:

  • document analysis
  • interviews and public meetings in Yukon
  • the circulation of a study prospectus with an invitation for written submissions
  • comparative visits to Yellowknife and Alaska
  • interviews with federal actors

Consultation was incredibly important. Reflecting the importance, volume two of the report provides a six page list with the 262 names of those consulted on the project.

How was this accomplished?

The consultants had the support of and funding from Yukon government.

Importantly, the resulting museums policy was branded with “Yukon 2000.” Yukon 2000 was an initiative to consult the public about Yukon’s future. It involved a significant time, staff, and financial commitment from the government to consultation.

What was the ultimate impact of the EXTERNAL consultants’ report on the new policy?

The report recommended:

  • new legislation
  • mechanisms to encourage existing museums to develop policies and procedures
  • a requirement that new museums fill a mandate that is not being met and show community support
  • the formation of a collections committee to reduce the unnecessary duplication of efforts
  • the inclusion of future Indigenous centers into the museums program
  • a training policy
  • The development of a museum service center with:
    • a conservator who would approve capital projects
    • the authority to negotiate the return of Yukon artifacts
    • the ability to assume responsibility for archaeological finds
  • Funding:
    • A capital program requiring detailed plans approved by Heritage Branch Staff
    • a commitment of 20% of operational expenses for the operation and maintenance grant
    • an extension of the salary assistance program

Most of the items on the list above did not occur, but there were some related changes to Yukon’s museum support program. Notably, Yukon government did not develop a specific service center for community museums with a conservator and collections committee. However, they hired a conservator and someone who helped museums with collection management.

Personally, I think the discursive impact was more significant than the recommendations in two ways:

  • The report provided the language to support the continued development of the existing support program. Although, they recommended a model with a museum service centre, the report did not recommend the development of a territorial museum. Instead it support a decentralized approach whereby the territorial government supported dispersed community museums. This approach was then enshrined in the articulated community museum policy.
  • The report also provided the rationale for an expanded museums advisory program:
    • The report identifies two areas of need – conservation and collection management. The Heritage Branch went on to hire a conservator in 1988 and then an advisor who helped museums with collection management in the early 1990s.
    • The report argues Yukon was not accessing federal funding available to museums. After the release of the report, Yukon government began more actively seeking funding for its programs. In particular, the conservator and collection manager were both originally hired with federal funding.

Was what happened ‘on the ground’ after the implementation of “new policy” effective and/or worthwhile for DCM?

I believe the most important influence of the “new policy” was the institutionalization of existing support. The policy provided a rationale for a community museum support program that positioned community museums as more than tourist sites. Once institutionalized it becomes more difficult for governments to cease support and provides a foundation for an expansion of the program.

In terms of the effects on the ground at the Dawson City Museum (DCM), interview participants highlighted the role of the conservator and collection manager in the late 1980s into the 1990s. As discussed in “A Community Hub,” the collection manager helped the DCM standardize collection management and digitize records throughout the 1990s. As discussed in “Territorial Interest and Investment,” the conservator helped with preventative conservation. In particular, her assistance was needed after the Old Territorial Administration building was renovated. When the building was cold year-round with ice in the basement, there were fewer pest concerns. After the renovations, the building had proper heating and those involved needed to learn about pest management.

When considering the archival data, I see fewer policy effects on the DCM. Financially, there does not seem to be a significant change in the Museum’s budget. While the Museum budget increased in the 1990s, the increase relates to a combination of grants and is (seemingly) not attributable to the Yukon museum policy. However, I could argue that the new policy institutionalized the operational and salary support, meaning the Museum’s core funding became more secure and the Director was able to focus on accessing other grants. The museum project grants became increasingly significant and the DCM was able to fund a number of intersecting projects over the next decade.


Thanks so much for the questions Paul! I hope I have answered them fully and look forward to engaging with additional questions as I finish the working papers.

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