Dawson City Museum Project: An Update and Plan

I have not posted very much on this blog since about this time last year for a few reasons.

Mainly, 2022-2023 has been incredibly busy for me in other ways. At work, I took on some responsibilities that made it more difficult to spend time on research. In my personal life, major changes have meant I am less able to simply work more hours during evenings and weekends to do research, which is often the reality and expectation in academia. I am five months pregnant. To be frank, that means I have been really tired all the time, feel sick, and have other priorities (finding a place to live was a joy…). 

That is not to say I have not been doing anything on the Dawson City Museum (DCM) Project or research more broadly!

Working with Others

I began working with more Research Assistants (RAs), giving them agency in the research analysis and output creation. Katherine Ahlf’s reflection provides a very early and simple example. This has worked really well in some cases because it highlights perspectives other than my own. However, it hasn’t always worked out or resulted in something that I will share and involves working with other students’ schedules, meaning writing can be more time consuming.  

You will see results from the RAs’ work soon as part of planned posts for Spring/Summer 2023 described below. For example, I am working with one RA on an analysis of the Dawson City Museum’s work both about and with Indigenous Peoples as a two-part thematic paper. Part one, which I wrote, outlines the Museum’s work over time based on the interview and archival data. Part two, which the RA is working on, considers the Museum’s work in relation to the Canadian Museums Association’s (CMA) more recent report Moved to Action. Finalizing part two has been really time consuming. The RA’s original draft was written based on her extensive research about best practices, but the CMA released Moved to Action the week she sent me the first draft. So, she re-wrote the paper, which took some time! Part two is still not ready for release yet because she is integrating feedback I provided. Then we would like to get feedback from Museum staff.  

I am also working with an RA on the long-promised podcast miniseries about the project. As a professor in arts and cultural management with a focus on museums and cultural policy, I wanted these to be useful for students. So, I asked RAs to take time and think about the best ways to make episodes from some of my posts, such as the chronological papers. We are currently recording these episodes! 

Thinking Work

In addition to working with others on deliverables for the DCM Project, I have been engaged in some thinking work. When starting the working papers, I started with the chronological papers that were fairly easy to write due to the timelines I had created during the archival data analysis state. The first thematic paper, which looked at the Museum in relation to the Old Territorial Administration Building, in some ways wrote itself. The conclusions were very clear in the data, and I had started to think about the provision of space as a kind of museum policy in past research.

Other themes, such as the paper on the Museum’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples mentioned above, have been more complicated to address. In some cases, like the analysis of Parks Canada’s role in the Museum’s development, the difficulty is due to a lack of existing research to consider in my analysis and address gaps in my knowledge. In others, like the analysis of the Museum’s role in the community over time, I could write a book. The challenge becomes distilling the information into a readable length.  Despite my efforts, the paper on the Museum’s role is still rather long for a working paper, but I will start to post it in parts next week.

In addition to the working papers, I have been doing and thinking about academic publishing. I wrote a chapter for a book on museum finances about the role of policy attachment. The DCM provided a wonderful case study because, until significant increases and the addition of multiyear agreements to the territorial operational grant, the Museum relied heavily on multiple overlapping and intersecting project grants with different policy objectives to do their work. Writing the chapter on policy attachment has prompted a re-evaluation of how I think about community museums’ roles in their communities. Often, there is a stigmatization of or a disdain for museums’ role(s) in tourism (and other economic objectives), which is portrayed as different from community museums’ roles in their community and less valuable than roles like preservation. However, in this case, attachment to economic goals like tourism and employment increased the Museum’s presence and role in the community, which originally founded the Museum explicitly to be a tourist resource. 

I would like to address some of these themes in future articles and thematic papers, but all the ideas are overlapping and complicated. It is hard to narrow things down to 6000 words! I also want the thematic episodes of the podcast series to be useful for the Museum. My plan on how best to do this has changed as my ideas evolve and the Executive Director that I worked with for the first year of the project (and am friends with) left the Museum. So, some papers and thematic episodes will be more delayed as I redevelop my ideas, seek feedback from the Museum, and talk with the new Executive Director about what she would find useful. 

Plan Going Forward

In addition to everything above, I also have not posted as much due to work on other projects. With the help of research assistants, I thought I could multi-task and I did… sometimes and to varying degrees of success. While not everything has worked out, I do have ideas to share. 

I would like to get as much as possible for the DCM Project finalized before taking a break from research in mid-July (to have a baby). In hopes that writing it down and making a commitment will make it so, here is my plan:

I am going to start posting twice a week – Wednesdays and Fridays. Upcoming posts will include:

  • A reflection on my attempt to engage in some arts funding research and why it did not work as well.
  • A reflection on how the process of blogging has changed my research
  • Thematic papers for the DCM Project on:
    • The DCM’s role over time (written and to be posted in parts)
    • The relationship between the Museum and Indigenous Peoples (in draft)
    • The relationship between the DCM and Parks Canada (currently, a very drafty draft)
    • The issue of employment (… this one is all in my head, but it really wants out!)
  • Podcast miniseries timeline episodes (in production)

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