Interview Analysis: Tourism Role

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.

As someone who loves museums but recognizes they are colonial constructs, I often wonder: What, exactly, is the contemporary role of a museum within a community? Do they perpetuate and reinforce colonial narratives or do they serve other functions?

In the working paper Dawson City’s Community Attic, I discussed the critical role of tourism to the Dawson City Museum’s establishment and early development. Within this post, I consider the interview with the Dawson City Museum’s curator to describe the Museum’s contemporary role in tourism.

Examples

In 2021, the Dawson City Museum reopened with new permanent exhibitions. These new exhibitions aim to better engage and reflect the local community.

Importantly, the old exhibitions were installed in the 1980s with small changes over time and an addition in the early 2000s. They primarily appealed to a tourist audience rather than locals. As stated in the interview with the curator:

I could see the visitors that were enjoying it at the time. It was really checking their boxes, for lack of a term. I’ve really perceived it, in that sense, as a tourist attraction for a certain kind of niche of visitor.

There were some community events happening, but there wasn’t as close a connection to reflecting community stories or community focused activities that I would expect from a small museum.

Interview

Here, they wanted to see the authentic item in a certain display. Again, very much for the tourists, because most locals know about that, and there wasn’t necessarily any additional context provided.

Interview

As part of appealing to tourists and reflecting the tourism industry within Dawson City, the Museum exhibitions were oriented around the Klondike Gold Rush. As stated in the interview:

It was very much Gold Rush focused. It kind of toed the party line locally of the Gold Rush experience. I think it really complemented, in a sense, the Parks Canada narrative, because it just kind of gave what people wanted to see; lots of stuff in the story of the Gold Rush context.

Interview

The focus on the Gold Rush was reflected in the interpretation, including rocker box and gold pouring demonstrations. As the Curator explained:

They very much covered that period in history, the Gold Rush – just before, or during, and just after – that tourists tend to craveThat’s very much how I saw it. I think that’s very much the tourist designated program, and again, any tours or guidance within the building would focus on the salient features of that period.

Interview

Tourism and the Dawson City Museum

The Dawson City Museum was founded, in part, for tourists in an effort to grow the tourism industry following deindustrialization and the Yukon Government’s move from Dawson to Whitehorse. The exhibitions that were in place for between 20 and 40 years served this objective well. Considering tourism, therefore, helps to explain consistency in the Museum’s historical development – that is, exhibitions and interpretive programming stayed the same over a long period of time.

Notably, tourism is not the only role the museum served while maintaining the exhibitions and programming. In subsequent posts we will consider other roles that more directly respond to evolving community needs, such as its role as an employer.

Questions

What do you think – Is tourism a key role for museums generally or simply this Museum?

What are the policy implications of a tourism focus?

Timeline: Dawson City Museum, 2010s

As part of the Dawson City Museum Project, I am creating timelines of the Museum’s development in relation to government policy and community action (1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s).

Museum Operations

  • 2010:

    Collection

    The Museum deaccessioned most of its paleontology collection, giving the artifacts to Yukon Government (DCM Report June 28, 2010).

    Acquisitions were minimal because of an ongoing collections project. However, the Museum accessed a series of photographs, which were significant because they showed the interior of buildings (DCM Annual Report 2011).

    Exhibitions

    The Museum created French translations of exhibition content (Source).

    The Museum held an exhibition titled “The Beauty that Surrounds us” featuring the work of Palma Berger as part of the Riverside Art Festival’s Gallery Hop (DCM Annual Report 2011).

    Programming (other)

    Canada Day continued to be a significant success for the Museum (DCM Report August 4, 2010).

    Screenshot from the DCM 2011 annual report
  • 2011:

    Collections

    After finishing the three year collections project in 2010, the Museum began a three year project to assess and address inefficiencies in the archival collection (DCM ED Report May 30, 2011).

    The Museum acquired Yukon Order of Pioneer photographs.

    Colour view of setting the pylon for the Ice Pool, which is held every spring. In recent years, the ice pool has been managed by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) and setting the pylon has been taken care of by members of the Yukon Order of Pioneers (YOOP).

Identified in this image is left to right: Chuck Barber, Gordie Caley and Jack Fraser
    Setting the Pylon for the Ice Pool, 2005 (Brian Close, 2011.13.19)

    Exhibitions

    The Museum launched three new exhibits:

    •  “Discovered in the Collections”: A case on the landing featuring sports related material. 
    • “Children of the Klondike”
    • an exhibition about Minto Park and its historic importance

    The Museum held a retrospective of Jackie Olsen’s painting for the Arts Festival’s Artswalk (DCM Annual Report 2011-12).

    Governance

    The Museum passed a new Corporate Records Management Policy, a Facilities Use Policy, and a Gift Shop and Admissions Policy (DCM Annual Report 2011-12).

    Partnerships

    The Museum partnered with the Dawson City Music Festival and the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture to access support from the Cultural Investment fund for website upgrades (DCM Report Jan 24 2011).

    Programming (Other)

    Screenshot from DCM Annual Report 2011-12

    With funding from Yukon Energy, the Museum began offering the education kit “Simple Machines” to the local school with plans for more boxes (DCM Report Jan 24, 2011). However, school programs were suspended due to the departure of the program manager (DCM Annual Report 2011-12). .

    The Museum began to offer tours of the storage facilities (DCM Review of Dawson City Museum 2007-2012).

    A summer student – future museum director – prepared a guide for the train shelter to be used by future interpreters (DCM End of Summer Report).

    Staffing

    The Museum eliminated a short lived programmer position due to financial challenges (DCM ED Report January 17, 2011; DCM Annual Report 2011-12). However, the Museum continued to have a seasonal gift show and admissions Manager, Archival Technician, Collections Technician, and summer student workforce of six (DCM Annual Report 2011-12).

  • 2012:

    Building

    A sprinkler burst, causing damage to the collection.

    Collections

    The Museum received a donation of 446 editions of the Klondike Sun in physical and digital format (DCM Annual Report 2013).

    Exhibitions

    The Museum had a temporary exhibition titled – What to do on Tuesdays in Winter? – which featured quilts as part of the local Arts Festival (DCM Annual Report 2013).

    Governing

    The Museum transitioned from being an administrative governing board, which did hands-on work, to a policy governing board (DCM Annual Report 2013).

    Library

    Due to the donation of proceeds from the sale of In the Footsteps of my Father, the Museum began to professionalize the appearance of the Klondike History Library (DCM Annual Report 2011-2012).

    Programming (Other)

    Screenshot from the DCM Annual Report 2013

    The Museum organized a comedy show with Ron James at the Palace Grand.

    Screenshot from Davidson, Dan. 2012, May 30. “Ron James Packs the Palace Grand.” Klondike Sun. P22.

    Self generated / Earned revenue

    Screenshot from DCM Notes for meeting with Minister
  • 2013:

    Collection

    The Museum used donations to make more photographs available on their website (DCM Annual Report 2013). Check out their awesome photo collection here!

    Significant donations accepted into the collection came from families of deceased Dawsonites, such as images from “Dinty” Dines:

    Colour view of gold being prepared for shipment. The location of the Mining Recorders Office at the time was located in the Old Post Office on Third Avenue and King Street.
The man is tentatively identified as John Dines [source: S. Burkhard].

Caption: Mining Recorder Shipping Gold 1957.
    Preparing Gold for Shipment, December 1957 (Harold Dines; 2013.1.9.15)

    The Museum hired a conservator to restore the piano damaged in the 2012 pipe burst.

    Exhibition

    The Museum hosted Riley Brenan for the Riverside Arts Festival (DCM Annual Report 2014).

    Programming (other)

    Screenshot from DCM Annual Report 2014
  • 2014:

    Staff

    The Museum hired a full time curator and an archivist/librarian in addition to the executive director.

  • 2015:

    Building

    There was a small flood in the Museum, but fortunately nothing was damaged (DCM ED Report June 16, 2015).

    Governance

    After a hiatus of almost two years, the collections committee began to meet and accept donations (DCM 2016 Annual Report).

    Staff

    The Museum began hiring fewer student summer staff (DCM 2016 Annual Report).

  • 2016:

    Building

    The Museum continued to experience problems with its sprinkler system, resulting in damage to a Gwichin language bible and the board room (DCM ED Report February 16, 2016).

    Collection

    The Museum had a dermestid beetle infestation, but were able to clean the infested artifacts with help from the territorial conservator before their summer opening (DCM 2016 Annual Report).

    The Museum continued to receive artifacts through donation, including Diamond Jubilee Dolls (DCM 2017 Annual Report).

    Exhibitions

    The Museum began working with Origin Studios on the Exhibit Renewal Project with support from the Community Development Fund (DCM 2016 Annual Report).

    The Museum hosted three temporary exhibits during the summer. They were on (DCM 2017 Annual Report):

    • Jewish history of the Klondike Gold Rush
    • Yukon’s role in the First World War
    • artwork by Priska Wettstein

    Programming

    The Museum held a St. Valentine’s Day dance fundraiser, which cost the institution money (DCM March 1 Minutes).

    The Museum stopped its movie program due to low attendance (DCM 2016 Annual Report).

    The Museum participated in Chris Clarke and Bo Yeung’s walk for Truth and Reconciliation, providing research resources (DCM 2017 Annual Report).

    The Museum participated in the Jack London Festival with movie nights and as judges for the gala dinner’s costume contest (DCM 2017 Annual Report).

    Staff

    The Museum laid off the Archivist/ Librarian, leaving the museum with only two core staff members (DCM 2017 Annual Report).

  • 2017:

    Building

    There were minor sprinkler renovations, but the system was not replaced (DCM 2017 Annual Report).

    Collection

    The Museum continued to receive donations, accepting ten acquisitions and receiving 15 new donation lots (DCM 2018 Annual Report).

    The Museum loaned Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in artifacts for a display in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government building (DCM 2018 Annual Report).

    Exhibitions

    The Museum used a Special Projects and Capital Assistance grant to create a traveling exhibition on the sinking of the S. S. Princess Sophia (DCM 2018 Annual Report).

    Governance

    The Museum commissioned a feasibility study for their renewal project (DCM 2018 Annual Report).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum participated in the Walk for Truth and Reconciliation with research and speaking at two spots (DCM 2018 Annual Report).

    The Executive Director provided a talk on the Museum’s hot soda machine for the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in conference Myth and Medium (DCM 2018 Annual Report).

    The Museum launched a social media initiative – the History of the Tr’ondëk-Klondike in 100 objects (DCM 2018 Annual Report).

    Staff

    The Museum experienced significant difficulties hiring summer staff due to fewer applicants and applicants turning down interviews (DCM ED Report May 16, 2017). However, they hired four 35 hour/week student positions at the museum using Young Canada Works and Canada Summer Jobs (DCM 2018 Annual Report).

  • 2018:

    Collections

    The Curator conducted an inventory of the Museum’s artifacts (DCM 2019 Annual Report).

    Staff

    With recommendations from teachers, the Museum was able to fill summer positions primarily with local students (DCM 2019 Annual Report).

    The Museum used funding from the Yukon Heritage Training Fund for both full time employees to attend courses outside of the territory (Source)

  • 2019:

    Building

    Leaks continued to be a problem for the Museum (DCM 2020 Annual Report)

    Collections

    The Museum reconciled donor records with catalogued information (DCM 2020 Annual Report).

    The Collections Committee reviewed 35 donation lots, including material from the Gold Rush Festival (DCM 2020 Annual Report).

    Exhibitions

    The Museum began working with Kubik-Maltbie on the new exhibitions.

    Staff

    The Museum hired two 35 hour / week student positions using the federal Youth Employment Strategy Programs (DCM 2020 Annual Report).

Government Policy

First Nation

Federal

  • 2012:

    Parks Canada

    Cuts to Parks Canada resulted in the loss of six full time jobs at Klondike Historic Sites and reduced hours for an additional five positions (Davidson 2012).

  • 2015:

    Parks Canada

    Parks Canada provided the Museum with space for staff housing (DCM ED report September 15, 2015).

  • 2017:

    Parks Canada

    Parks Canada submitted the Tr’ondëk-Klondike World Heritage Site Advisory Committee’s nomination to the World Heritage Center (source).

  • 2019:

    Cultural Spaces Fund

    The Government of Canada contributed $557,000 to the Dawson City Museum’s new exhibits.

Canada – Yukon

  • 2012:

    Parks Canada Cuts

    Territorial Ministers were concerned about the effects cuts to Parks Canada would have on the territory. The Minister of Tourism and Culture stated:

    The Yukon government is actively taking steps, as I mentioned, to identify potential solutions to address the impacts of these changes within Parks Canada and on Yukon. I’ve written to the Hon. Peter Kent about this issue and department officials have been meeting with local Parks Canada representatives to also identify possible mitigations to these cuts.

    YLA 33.1.64
  • 2013:

    Canadian Conservation Institution (CCI) and Yukon Government

    At Yukon Government’s request, a CCI representative visited the Dawson City Museum and conducted a site assessment (DCM ED Report October 15, 2013).

  • 2017:

    The Issue of a lease

    In order to apply for federal funding for the Dawson City Museum’s renewal project, the Museum needed a 10 year lease from the territory for the Old Territorial Administration building. The lease was not provided (DCM 2018 Annual Report).

  • 2019:

    The Issue of a lease

    The lack of a lease with Yukon government continued to delay the Museum’s application for funding. They finally received a lease in May 2019, allowing them to apply for federal funding (DCM 2019 Annual Report; DCM 2020 Annual Report).

Territorial

  • 2011:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territorial Museums Unit held the first roundtable (Cambio 2013).

    The Museums Advisory Committee (MAC) asked the territorial Museums Unit to review standards in other jurisdictions (Cambio 2013).

  • 2013:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The roundtable participants formed a working group on standards (Cambio 2013).

    The Museums Unit met with clients to review special projects funding, clarifying the criteria and evaluation process (Cottongrass Consulting Group, Inc 2014).

  • 2014:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Funding Allocation for Yukon Museums and First Nation Cultural/Heritage Centres Options Paper

  • 2015:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Yukon government considered and implemented changes to the museum funding program. The government (Cambio 2015):

    • considered a new hybrid funding model that would tie some funding to standards.
    • committed to a two staged increase to operational funding of 10% a year for two years.
    • proposed a 10% increase in the third year dependent on standards adherence and taken from the Special Projects Capital Assistance Program funding. .

    Due to a lack of demand for special project money, the Museums Unit had a surplus and provided each of the 19 museums and cultural centers with over three thousand dollars to spend (DCM ED Report June 16, 2015).

    Historically, the MacBride Museum and Dawson City Museum were in a highest tier for operational funding. In 2015, the Territory made a separate higher tier for the MacBride Museum (DCM 2016 Annual Report).

  • 2016:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Due to concerns from First Nations Cultural Centre, the hybrid model for funding was reassessed during the 2016 Roundtable. As a result, the third year funding increase was no longer tied to meeting standards (Cambio 2016).

    The Museums Unit hired a contractor to review the collections management database in consultation with museums and cultural centers (Cambio 2016).

    Operational funding increased.

    The territorial conservator visited the Dawson City Museum to help manage a beetle infestation (DCM 2017 Annual Report).

  • 2017:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territorial conservator visited to clean artifacts that had been moved for the Dawson City Museum’s sprinkler renovations (DCM 2017 Annual Report).

    At the 2017 Roundtable, Museums were asked whether they supported the Museums Unit exploring the CollectiveAccess System for collections management. According to the roundtable report, clients were supportive (Glynn-Morris 2017).

    Participants at the Roundtable also voted unanimously that they would like to develop a new museum strategy (Glynn-Morris 2017).

  • 2019:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Yukon Government provided $500,000 to help the Dawson City Museum Pay for new exhibits. Describing the support, the Minister of Tourism and Culture stated:

    On the Dawson City Museum exhibit renewal, we have $250,000 for each of the next two years — so a total of $500,000 has been allocated to this. This is multi-year — again, it will take some time, but it is about the exhibit redevelopment at the Dawson City Museum. They are going to be redoing all of their exhibits, and this will align with their anniversary. Highways and Public Works is doing extensive work as well with the Dawson City Museum to address some challenges. Again, they will be doing the permanent exhibits in the museum which require updating or replacing. Archival storage has exceeded its capacity and its offices are very inconveniently located on the second floor. To address the challenges, the museum is planning a renewal of the offices, archival storage, the exhibits, and the gallery spaces

    YLA 34.2.142

    Within Yukon Government, the Museums and Heritage Unit merged, resulting in challenges as staff had limited time to do everything (Hemmera 2019).

    Old Territorial Administration Building

    Yukon Government conducted a building assessment, funding serious defects with the building (DCM 2020 Annual Report).

Local

  • 2013:

    During regional economic planning, the World Heritage Project (a proposal to designate the Klondike Region as a UNESCO world heritage site) was identified as a key priority (source).

Community Action

  • 2013:

    Local Community

    The Tr’ondëk-Klondike World Heritage Site Advisory Committee formed with participation from the Dawson City Museum (DCM ED Report April 16, 2013).

  • 2018:

    Local Community

    The Tr’ondëk-Klondike World Heritage Site Advisory Committee decided to withdraw and resubmit its nomination (source).

Questions

Is there anything missing? Let me know!

References

Cambio. 2013, October. Yukon Museums & Cultural Centers: Annual Roundtable Workshop.

Cambio. 2015, October. Yukon Museums & Cultural Centres Roundtable.

Cambio. 2016, November. Yukon Museums & Cultural Centres Roundtable.

Catherine C. Cole & Associates. 2014. Funding Allocation for Yukon Museums and First Nation Cultural/Heritage Centres Options Paper. Cultural Services, Department of Tourism and Culture, Yukon Government.

Davidson, Dan. 2012, May 30. “Council Reacts to the Cuts at Parks. The Klondike Sun. P3. http://klondikesun.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Sun12-5-30online.pdf

DCM – internal documents from the Dawson City Museum

Glynn-Morris, John. 2017, October. Museums and Cultural Centres: Dawson Roundtable.

Hemmera. 2019, November. Museums and Cultural Centres 2019 Roundtable Report.

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.

Examples

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.

Interview

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.

Interview

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.

Questions

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?

Dawson City’s Community Attic: The Development of the Dawson City Museum from the 1950s to 1972

The Dawson City Museum project asks – How has the Dawson City Museum evolved in relation to government policy and community action? 

We are taking two approaches to answering the question. First, we are considering the data chronologically to discuss the evolution of the Museum over time. Second, we have developed key themes related to policy and community. To solicit feedback, I will post a series of working papers that consider the data in these two ways – that is, chronologically and thematically. These papers will inform the final report for the Dawson City Museum and podcast miniseries.   

Providing the first chronological consideration of the data, this working paper asks – How was the Dawson City Museum established? What are some key moments, influential policies, and community activities that define its early development from 1954 to 1972? 

After summarizing the answers and outlining our research approach, I give a short overview of the Museum’s development from the early 1950s to 1972. I consider significant policies, focusing on federal action – that is, the provision of an operating grant and free or low-cost space. Then, a section on community activity describes collecting practices and work to develop the tourism industry in Dawson City. Finally, the paper concludes with a summary and research implications.  

Summary

How was the Dawson City Museum established?

The Museum opened as part of the Klondike Tourist Bureau (now the Klondike Visitors Association) in 1954 to preserve artifacts in Yukon and provide an activity for tourists. The founders formed the Dawson City Museum and Historical Society in 1957, incorporated in 1959, to cash a cheque from government, and thereby became an independent museum. 

What are some key moments (1), influential policies (2), and community activities (3) that define its early development from 1954 to 1972?

  1. A key moment is the Gold Rush Festival in 1962, which motivated the Museum to reopen after it burnt down in 1960. 
  2. Influential policies include the federal grant for museums, the territorial support for tourism organizations, and the provision of low cost or free space to the Dawson City Museum. 
  3. Individuals from the Museum’s communities helped rebuild the collection after the fire. Further, organizations in the local community focused on tourism, most notably the Klondike Visitors Association, were key to the Museum’s establishment. 

Research Methods

The Dawson City Museum (DCM) Project has involved extensive archival research, document analysis, and interviews with fifteen people. However, no one interviewed worked for or with the DCM before 1972. As such, this analysis relies on an interview conducted with founders in 1973 (available here), two publications (Stuart 1990, Warner 1963), and the DCM’s corporate archives. 

Overview

In the early 1950s, members of the Klondike Tourist Bureau (now the Klondike Visitors Association or KVA) began collecting and preserving artifacts in Dawson City. The collection began due, in part, to concern that artifacts were being taken out of the Yukon and Canada. However, the group’s main objective was to promote the tourism industry. So, they began asking for space from government to exhibit their collection for tourists. In 1954, the Museum opened for the first time in the old fire hall, functioning as a community attic that was open to tourists. However, without financial support, there was limited local interest  and no regular hours (Interview).

Eventually, an individual from British Columbia (possibly the museums advisor) told those running the Museum:

You need assistance, you’ve got to have government help. You need the help to work, but you need money as well

Interview

At the time, the federal government had a grant for museums distributed through the territorial government. The federal government wrote a cheque to the “Dawson City Museum and Historical Society,” which forced a member of the KVA to form the Museum society to deposit the cheque. The DCM was thereby founded as an independent entity in 1957 and officially incorporated in 1959. 

Unfortunately, the Museum burnt down in June 1960 and, as a result, most of the collection was lost. However, at the same time in 1960 members of the Dawson community began planning the 1962 Gold Rush Festival. Opening a museum in time for the festival was a key goal. To achieve this goal, the Museum Society did two things. First, they began asking for artifacts from both the local community and a broader community of people with a connection to the Klondike, rebuilding a collection with a focus on the Klondike Gold Rush. Second, they searched for a new space to house the collection. 

After significant effort, the Museum Society successfully rebuilt a collection and found housing just in time for the festival, reopening in the federally owned Old Territorial Administration Building (OTAB). Over the next decade, the DCM continued operating as a volunteer-run community museum, receiving a relatively small grant ($500) and most of its income from admissions. Importantly, they also continued occupying the OTAB for free.

Due to age and a lack of proper upkeep, problems emerged with the new museum space. By 1968, the OTAB failed a fire inspection and was labeled a death trap (for the first but not the last time). Fearing closure, the Society offered to sell the collection to Klondike National Historical Sites in Dawson. However, the board changed, and the failed report was forgotten, leading to renewed interest in maintaining an independent museum (Shaw 1970; Snider 1971 1972). 

The first period, therefore, ends with a museum in a rent-free but poorly maintained space, functioning as an attic for community treasures open for tourists and those interested in the Klondike. 

Policy 

In the Museum’s first 20 years, the federal government played a key role in its development through the provision of space after the 1960 fire and the original operating grant. 

Space

The Dawson City Museum (DCM) open in the Old Territorial Administration Building (OTAB) just in time for the 1962 Gold Rush Festival and has been there ever since. The building itself has played an important role in the DCM’s development and will be the subject of its own paper. When considering the space and DCM’s early evolution, there are two important points to consider.

First, the federal government leased the OTAB to the Museum during the Gold Rush Festival period for $5.00 a month. After the festival, the Museum continued to occupy the space, but stopped paying rent until the 1990s. The free (and later relatively inexpensive) space was and continues to be a significant form of support for the institution. 

Second, while the free or relatively inexpensive space was crucial to reopening the Museum, it also led to significant challenges. In particular, the space failed a fire inspection and was labeled a death trap. As a result, the overwhelmed volunteers almost sold the collection and shut down the institution. Although a new Board decided to keep the Museum open, building maintenance continued to present challenges and, despite extensive renovations, continues to be an issue today. These issues will be discussed throughout the papers which take the chronological approach to answering the research question and in a paper focusing on the building as a key theme. 

To summarize, the federal government rented the Old Territorial Administration Building to the DCM for five dollars a month and then for free. The provision of space was a significant form of support because it allowed the Museum to reopen. However, at the same time, the lack of support to renovate the space threatened the Museum’s existence. 

Operational Support

The federal government provided funding, which led to the Museum’s incorporation and separation from the KVA when they wrote a cheque to the Dawson City Museum and Historical Society. As museum founder Margretta Gaundroue recalled: 

The Klondike Visitor’s Association were instigators of our Museum. They were the sponsors. I just ran [it], so what could we do? I went to the bank and I said, “how can we cash this cheque?” He says, “you can’t, you have to deposit it.” We had no account to deposit it, so I phoned our minister, Allan Haldenby and I said, “I just formed a new society, you’re the president and the secretary-treasurer.” Knowing how I did things, he said “that’s fine with me,” so that was it.

Interview

The federal government continued to provide a $500 grant until 1961-1962, asking the Museum to detail what they planned with the funds every year. While the territorial government did not begin a specific museum grant program until the 1980s, they did continue the support through a grant for tourism organizations, such as museums. 

In other words, the federal operating grant led to the DCM’s incorporation and contributed to the development of territorial support for museums. 

Community

The Dawson City Museum is a product of its local community’s desire to both serve as a tourist destination and protect its local artifacts in Yukon.

Tourism

In 1953, Yukon’s capital moved from Dawson City to Whitehorse. At the same time, large scale mining was declining. Aiming to capitalize on an increased interest in the north, private and public organizations began to organize to develop a tourism industry in Dawson. To that end, what is now called the Klondike Visitors Association or KVA formed in 1952 and began greeting tourists in costumes. Then, the Dawson City Festival Foundation formed to host the 1962 Gold Rush Festival, which also aimed to increase tourism (Stuart 1990). Both organizations had key roles in the Dawson City Museum’s early development.    

First, as established above, the Dawson City Museum, which opened in 1954, was a product of the KVA. Then, after the Museum incorporated, individuals continued to be members of both groups. Lotz reported:

Two organizations in the city cater to tourists – The Klondike Visitors Association, which ran a campground in 1963, has put signs on the old buildings, and runs the Palace Grand shows, and the Dawson City Museum and Historical Society, which focuses its attention on building up and running the museum in the old Administration Building. Some individuals in Dawson are members of both organizations, and the shortage of able individuals in the town due to the small population and the summer rush, means that some of the tourist attractions and activities are run on a part-time basis or by old people and teenagers.

Lotz 1964, 128

In addition to observing people had dual membership in the KVA and DCM, the quote highlights the Museum’s perceived role as a tourism operation despite its separation from the KVA. Moreover, it draws attention to the local community’s commitment to developing tourism in the area through organizations like the Museum despite limited human resources. 

Second, the Dawson City Museum that reopened in the Old Territorial Administration building in 1962 was a product of the Gold Rush Festival. After the Museum burnt down in 1960, the Museum Society was unable to solicit enough support to construct a new building (Warner 1963, 13). Society members worked to find space for almost two years when the pending Festival provided some urgency to their requests. Members of the Festival Foundation had organized traveling exhibitions to be hosted at the Museum. In a plea for space, a Museum Society representative wrote:

It is imperative to assist the Festival that we have accommodations. 

Shaw 1962

Interestingly, as seen with the KVA, the connections between the Festival and Museum are even more evident when considering the people who formed them. For example, the Gold Rush Festival’s general manager became the Society’s president. 

In short, public and private interests were attentive to the tourism industry in Dawson during the 1950s and 1960s, leading to the Klondike Visitors Association and Dawson City Festival Foundation. Both of these groups involved the local community working to provide activities for tourists. The Dawson City Museum was part of both plans.

Collection

After the fire, the Museum rebuilt its collection due to the generosity of its communities, including Dawsonites, visitors and a network of people with an interest in the Klondike Gold Rush. For example, in 1963 a Society member wrote:

The museum was built up piece by piece through the kindness and generosity of visitors to Dawson, who assisted the museum executives in many ways.

Warner 1963, 13

A tiny harmonium was sent in from the creeks. It was broken. Happily, a man just wandered in the door and asked if he could fix it! 

Warner 1963, 14

These objects came to the Museum following a public appeal. For example, an entry in the Vancouver Board of Trade newsletter stated:

Since the people of the Yukon will be entertaining Bureau members next Monday, it’s nice to discover that we have an opportunity to repay their kindness.

All you are asked to do is look around that attic or basement storeroom of yours for relics of the Klondike days. 

Seems that the Dawson’s Museum burned down last summer, and many priceless mementos of the past were lost. With a festival planned for next year, they are appealing to the people of Canada and the U.S.A, for the donations of relics of the Gold Rush era…

Found in: 1.1.4: Correspondence w secretary treasurer March 1958 to October 1960. Box 1. DCM.

In addition to exemplifying the public appeals, the excerpt demonstrates the focus on the Gold Rush era.

In sum, the Dawson City Museum collection was and is built by their communities.  

Conclusion

In 1954 the Dawson City Museum opened as part of the Klondike Visitors Association to preserve artifacts in the Yukon and provide tourists with something to do. It became its own independent organization to access federal funding then moved into a federal building after burning down. The Museum’s communities rebuilt the collection as the Society worked to reopen for the Gold Rush Festival. By 1972, the Museum was firmly established as an independent organization. However, the Society began experiencing the challenges of occupying a historic site they did not own and did not have funding to fix despite the clear fire code violations. 

The early history demonstrates the significance of both federal policy and community action. The Dawson City Museum was established and despite significant challenges, such as a fire that destroyed its collection, remained open due to federal support, community initiatives to promote tourism in Dawson, and a community’s desire for a space to preserve artifacts in the Yukon. 

References

Haldenby, Allan. 1960, December 7. Letter to the Superintendent public works. 1.1.4: Correspondence w secretary treasurer March 1958 to October 1960. Box 1. DCM Archives

Lotz, Jim. 1964. The Dawson Area: A Regional Monograph No. 2. In Yukon Research Project Series, Northern Co-ordination and Research Centre, Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Ottawa, Ontario.

MacKenzie, K. 1961, December. Letter to the Dawson Museum & Historical Society. Correspondence Roy minister 1961-2. Box 39. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Shaw, G. 1962. Letter to the Superintendent of Buildings. Correspondence Minister 1961-62, Box 39c. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Shaw, G. 1970, March 11. Letter to National Historic Sites. 1.1.43 correspondence 1970. Box 1. DCM.

Snider, K. C. 1971, January 27. Letter to the NHS Superintendent. 2.2.1: Correspondence. Box 1. Dawson City Museum.

Snider, K.C. 1972, February 21. Letter to the White Valley Historical Society. 2.2.2: Correspondence 1972. Box 1. Dawson City Museum.

Stuart, Richard. 1990. “Recycling Used Boom Towns: Dawson and Tourism. The Northern Review. 1:108-131. 

Warner, Iris. 1963. “A Museum for Dawson City.” North, 10(4): 13-16.


Interview Analysis: I Love Dawson

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 the love people feel for Dawson City and ask – what role has individual affection for the local community played in the Dawson City Museum’s development?

Examples

Interview participants often expressed affection for Dawson City and/or the people who live(d) there. For example, one person noted:

I did fall in love with Dawson.

Interview

Most notably, the current Executive Director, Alex Somerville, expressed love in response to multiple questions. Here are two examples:

I started working at the Dawson City Museum in 2011 as a summer student. I had a really great time. I loved living in Dawson. I loved working for the museum.

Interview

I’ve worked for the Museum now for ten years, I know the museum well, I obviously love it dearly, and I love Dawson.

Interview

Alex also explained that love for Dawson is a theme in historic documents, stating:

In my position working at the Museum, I know that it is a feeling that people have reported at all kinds of different times through the history of the town.

People reported an uncanny attraction to the place in 1898. Laura Burton came to Dawson when it was a very different place in 1907, I think. It was a very different place in 1907 and she reports the same inexplicable attraction.

I wish I knew what it was. I don’t know if anyone does.

Interview

A Love for Dawson and the Museum’s Development

Why found a community museum?

Community museums, by definition, reflect affection for their community. They form to tell community stories, which suggests an underlining belief that these stories are worth telling.

In the Dawson City Museum case, the Museum formed with two explicit objectives – that is, to preserve heritage in Yukon and support the budding tourism industry (Source). The tourism industry was seen as a way to sustain the region’s economy, which was suffering due, in part, to deindustrialization (Stuart 1990). A strong desire to serve the community, therefore, underlined the Museum’s founding.

Who comes to the community?

Community museums can struggle to both hire and retain qualified staff. They have relatively small budgets and demand a lot from their executive directors or curators (see Too Much for One Person).

With a budget of less than $400,000 and in a town of fewer than 2,500 people, the Dawson City Museum has retained the same two full time employees since 2014. They both have a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto and were complimented for their work ethic across interviews. Despite relatively low pay and high workload, they have stayed in Dawson. The excerpts from Alex’s interview above help explain why – the place itself attracts people who fall in love and stay. As Alex explained:

There’re just all these really excellent examples of people not planning on moving to Dawson for forever, coming for a summer. It’s a cliche, you know, I came to Dawson for a summer [and] here I am thirty-five years later. It’s just something about this place.

interview

Questions

What do you think? Should I consider a love for Dawson City when answering – How has the Dawson City Museum evolved in relation to government policy and community action?

If so, how else does or has affection for the place shaped the Museum?

More broadly, how can and should community be considered when discussing a museum’s evolution?

Timeline: Dawson City Museum, 2000s

Last updated : February 15, 2022

As part of the Dawson City Museum Project, I am creating timelines of the Museum’s development in relation to government policy and community action (1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s).

Museum Operations

After a decade of increased funding and activity related to territorially significant centennials (e.g., the Klondike Gold Rush), the 2000s saw significant changes for the Dawson City Museum (DCM). Signaling the shift, in 2000-2001, the Director / Curator was laid off for 20 weeks and the Administrative Assistant was placed on part time hours. The Museum was also forced to borrow money on two occasions (DCM AGM June 6, 2002).

  • 2000:

    Building

    The Museum nominated the Old Territorial Administration Building to the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as a National Historic Site.

    The Museum completed the Lind Storage Facility (See documents available in City of Dawson funding 2000, Box 27a, Dawson City Museum Archives).

    Exhibitions

    The Museum worked to develop a new gallery, but began experiencing delays in obtaining approval from the Yukon Territorial government to conduct renovations on the Old Territorial Administration Building (Thistle 2001, October).

    Governance

    The Museum began a strategic planning exercise (DCM Newsletter vol. 15 no. 4).

    Programming (Other)

    The Lecture Series was re-established (DCM Newsletter vol. 16 no. 1; See documents available in City of Dawson funding 2000, Box 27a, Dawson City Museum Archives).

    Staffing

    The Museum continued to use short term grants for staffing, including (DCM Newsletter vol. 16 no. 1):

    • Funding from Human Resources Development Canada’s Summer Career Placement Programme for five summer interpreters. Importantly, this program was becoming less effective due to reductions to individual applications (see government policy – federal – 2000 – employment policy below).
    • Young Canada Works students through the Canadian Heritage Foundation, the Canadian Library Association, the Canadian Museums Association, and the Canadian Council of Archives.

    In total, the Museum hired 12 contract workers in addition to the staff complement of 2.5 (See documents available in City of Dawson funding 2000, Box 27a, Dawson City Museum Archives).

  • 2001:

    The Museum began to experience significant financial difficulties, requiring the use of a personal line of credit to operate the museum (See documents available in O&M correspondence, 29b, Dawson City Museum Archives)

    Building

    The Old Territorial Administration Building was designated as a historic site.

    Collections

    The Museum experienced an insect infestation, requiring 245 hours of work to dismantle exhibitions then examine, bag, freeze, thaw, clean and reinstall infected artifacts (Thistle 2001, September).

    Exhibitions

    Heritage Canada’s declared that 2001 was a year to celebrate transportation history. So, the Museum mounted a photography exhibit on the history of the Klondike Mines Railway (YHMA 2001, Fall)

    Fundraising / Earned Revenue

    The Museum established an endowment (DCM Newsletter June 2001).

    Governance

    The Museum adopted a five year plan (DCM Newsletter vol. 16 no. 4).

    Programming (Other)

    The Museum continued the lecture series.

    The Museum published A Walking Tour of Dawson City Cemeteries with funding from Yukon Tourism’s “On Yukon Time” program (YHMA 2001, Fall).

    Staffing

    The Museum hired 16 contract workers (See documents in City of Dawson Funding, box 28c, Dawson City Museum Archive).

    Due to financial difficulties, the Director was temporarily laid off (see Too Much for one Person).

  • 2002:

    Advocacy

    The Museum engaged in an advocacy campaign for increased operational funding (See documents available in O&M Correspondence, Box 29b, Dawson City Museum Archives).

    Exhibitions

    The Museum opened the Lind Gallery, which focused on pre-Gold Rush history (DCM Newsletter vol. 18 no. 2).

    The Museum held a temporary exhibition of posters designed by the local grade three students. The photo below is of the student poster chosen for promotional materials (DCM Newsletter vol. 18 no. 2):

    Artist: Katrina Kocsis

    Grants

    The Museum received the following grants (DCM AGM Director’s Report 2003):

    GranterPurposeAmount
    YTG – Heritage BranchOperations & Maintenance$23,500
    YTG – Heritage BranchGift Shop Development$11,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchExhibit planning$30,00
    YTG – Heritage Branchright sizing$12,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchNegative scanning$12,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchKRMy$14,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchWalking tour booklet$6,000
    Federal HRDC$21,520
    Canadian Museum AssociationYoung Canada Works$5,518.80
    Canadian Library AssociationYoung Canada Works$2,488.50
    FederalYCW in Both Official Languages$3,197.70
    Koerner Foundationproduction of Dawson at 40 Below$1,500
    KVA Community Events Casino$8,095.92
    Tr’ondek Hwech’in $5,000
    City of DawsonOperating $10,000

    Library

    Using funding from lotteries, the Museum updated the Klondike History Library Equipment (DCM AGM Director’s Report 203).

    Staffing

    The Museum once again hired 16 contract workers (See documents available in City of Dawson funding, Box 29a, Dawson City Museum Archive), employing 19 people in total (DCM AGM Director’s Report 2003)

  • 2003:

    Building

    The Museum began to experience difficulties with the sprinkler system in the storage facilities (DCM Report to Sept 17 to October 20).

    Collections

    Significant acquisitions included (DCM Newsletter vol. 19 no. 2):

    • an original slide projector from the Orpheum Theatre
    • an album of photographs
    • Royal Canadian Legion Dawson Branch minute book and associated papers
    • a number of Rebekah Lodge ledgers and membership rolls

    The Museum began to experience significant backlogs in registration of the departure of the collection’s manager (DCM Report to Board for June 19 to July 22). The Museum then hired a full time registrar and re-established the collection committee (DCM AGM Director Report 2004).

    Exhibits

    The Museum developed a Banking Exhibition and worked to redesigned visible storage (DCM AGM Director’s Report 2003).

    The Museum redid a temporary exhibition called “Too Thick to Drink, Too thin to Plow exhibit” in the Court Room (DCM Report to Board for May 15 to June 18)

    Grants

    The Museum received the following grants (DCM AGM Director Report 2004):

    GranterPurposeAmount
    YTG – Heritage BranchOperations & Maintenance$80,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchEmergency security$12,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchSecurity upgrades$50,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchExhibit planning$25,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchCemetery brochure$3,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchMedallions$6,622
    FederalHRDC$12,628
    Canadian Museum AssociationYoung Canada Works$11,073.75
    Canadian Library AssociationYoung Canada Works$2,612.93
    FederalYCW in Both Official Languages$3,952.32
    CCA (?)$3,952.32
    Lotteries$6,445
    City of DawsonOperating$10,000

    Staffing

    There were significant cuts to the funded summer student employees (DCM Newsletter vol. 19 no. 1). However, the Museum still employed a total of 16 people in 2003 (DCM AGM Director Report 2004).

    The Museum experimented with a co-directorship, hiring a Director / Administration and a Director / Curator (DCM Newsletter vol. 19 no. 1).

  • 2004:

    Collections

    The Museum worked with the Tr’ondek Hwech’in to create a First Nations photo finding aid of all the collections held at the Museum (DCM DA Report October 14).

    The Museum received 36 new deposits, meeting with 15 donors to conduct oral research on the donations. They catalogued or significantly modified the records for 2,790 artifacts. They still had a backlog of about 600 items, representing 2% of the collection (DCM AGM Director Report 2005).

    Grants

    The Museum received the following grants (DCM AGM Director Report 2005):

    GranterPurposeAmount
    YTG – Heritage BranchOperations & Maintenance$80,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchExhibit plan$15,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchLind Extension$10,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchTrain Conservation$10,500
    YTG – Heritage BranchLibrary Biography files$2,000
    YTG Community Development Fund$17,70
    FederalHRDC$12,964
    Canadian Museum AssociationYoung Canada Works$2,445.14
    FederalYCW in Both Official Languages$3,102.80
    CCA (?)$3,192
    LotteriesOral historic recorder$481.48

    Programming (other)

    The Museum partnered with Tr’ondek Hwech’in and Parks Canada on a school program titled “Secret Life of Artifacts,” which aimed to help students develop a better understanding of the role of heritage organizations (DCM Newsletter vol. 20 no. 1)

    The summer interpreters performed a musical skit – “Songs in the Key of Gold” (DCM AGM Director Report 2005)

    Staffing

    The Museum employed 14 people (DCM Presentation AGM 2005).

  • 2005:

    Collections

    The Museum hired a collections manager for Fall and Winter, holding regular collections committee meetings where donations were reviewed and participants reminisced about people they recognized in images (DCM Executive Director Report AGM).

    The Museum catalogued/accessioned 674 artifacts and significantly modified over 3000 artifact records during the visible storage project (DCM Executive Director Report AGM).

    Exhibitions

    The Museum opened two new photographic exhibitions – Oldest Profession and Dogs. The Dogs exhibition featured a section for people to pin pictures with their dogs.

    The Museum displayed Chris Caldwell’s “Quoth of the Raven” from the Yukon Government’s permanent art collection in their Gift Shop for the Summer (DCM Report for April 22 to May 19 2005).

    Grants

    The Museum received the following grants (Executive Director Report AGM 2006):

    GranterPurposeAmount
    YTG – Heritage BranchOperations & Maintenance$80,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchExhibit planning$15,000
    YTG – Heritage BranchFrench$7,500
    YTG – Heritage BranchTrain Conservation$13,000
    YTG Community Development Fund$56,187
    FederalHRSDC$7,640
    Federal – Canadian HeritageVirtual Museums of Canada$102,720
    Canadian Museum AssociationYoung Canada Works$4,536
    Canadian Library AssociationYoung Canada Works$3,033
    FederalYCW in Both Official Languages$4,629
    Canadian Council of Archives$8,096
    LotteriesOral historic recorder$750
    STEP3,240

    Partnerships

    The Museum continued to emphasize partnership in their work. Joint projects included (DCM Executive Director Report AGM):

    • the Parks Canada / Tr’ondëk Hwech’in joint partner pass
    • Science Institute lecture series
    • work with McBride and the Yukon Arts Centre
    • assistance to the Old Log Church for their travelling exhibit
    • work with the Yukon Queen on a prop display

    Staffing

    The Museum continued to use student employment programs, but had a number of performance issues and had to let a student go (DCM Report for July 2005). They provided employment for 15 people and 5 contractors (Executive Director Report AGM 2006).

  • 2006:

    Exhibitions

    The Museum launched its first virtual exhibition and opened the redesigned visible storage, which involved treating the silver collection (DCM Newsletter vol. 22 no. 1 and 2).

    Partnerships and collaborations

    The Museum engaged in several partnerships / collaborations with other nonprofits, including (DCM Newsletter vol. 22 no. 2):

    • The Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture (KIAC) to present the movie series Miracle Planet during the summer.
    • KIAC and Musicfest on an application from the federal Cultural Investment Fund to redesign their websites.
  • 2007:

    Earned Revenues

    The Museum decided to close the cafe and focus on things like consignments in the gift shop (DCM Final Report Summer 2007).

    Collections

    The majority of acquisitions were archival, such as a postcard featuring the Yukon Machine Gun Detachment (DCM Annual Report 2008).

    Governance

    The Museum held a series of meetings to develop a strategic plan (DCM Dawson City Museum Strategic Planning Final Report).

    The Board began to review policies (DCM Annual Report 2008).

    Programming

    Screenshot from DCM Annual Report 2008

    The Canada Day attendance figure in the chart above reflects work to offer new and more exciting programming in front of the Museum (DCM Executive Director June 19 2008).

    Since the Museum received late notice for student employees, students did not give guided tours and a self guided booklet was developed. The students conceived and wrote the Miner’s Meeting where an audience member was accused of something and the audience voted on their guilt (DCM Final Report Summer 2007).

    The Museum created a Program Co-ordinator position, leading to Classic Movie Night and Oscar Night (DCM Annual Report 2008).

  • 2008:

    Collections

    The Museum began a project to address the backlog of artifacts for cataloguing. As such, over 3,000 new records were entered into the database (DCM Annual Report 2009).

    Significant acquisitions included:

    • The Yukon Hotel Directory
    • Klondike Sun Photographs
    • Gold samples and pokes

    Governance

    The Museum adopted a new constitution and mission statement:

    To be a gathering place where people are inspired to explore the connection between the Klondike and their world.

    DCM Mission Statement Resolution February 21, 2008

    Programming

    The Museum began to offer “A Night at the Museum” for school children with funding from Yukon Energy (DCM Annual Report 2008).

    The Museum piloted a new program – Camp Cheechako – which taught people about what they needed to survive in Yukon at the turn of the century (DCM Annual Report 2009).

  • 2009:

    Building

    The sprinkler system in the Locomotive Shelter failed. In response, volunteers formed an Emergency Response Team and began training for future problems (DCM Annual Report 2010).

    Collections

    The Museum worked to update its collection records (DCM Annual Report 2009-2010).

    Exhibitions

    The DCM had mannequins of local residents made in order to use in the exhibition (Source).

    Source

    Governance

    The Human Resources Policy was updated (DCM Annual Report 2009-2010).

    Programming (other)

    The Museum held A Night in the Museum for students in grades 5 and 6 (source).

    A new brochure was produced with funding from the Klondike Visitors Association (DCM Annual Report 2009-2010).

    The Museum held Invention Camp, which provided children from the Dawson Day Care and Tr’inke Zho Daycare to make devices based on the artifacts in the Museum’s collection (DCM Annual Report 2010).

    The Museum restarted gold pouring demonstration, which had stopped prior to 2007 because the machine broke (DCM Review of Dawson City Museum 2007-2012).

Government Policy

First Nation

  • 2002:

    The Tr’ondek Hwech’in contributed $5,000 to support the work done for the Lind Gallery (DCM Newsletter vol. 18 no. 2).

  • 2003:

    The Dawson City Museum (+ the ROM) lent the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre artifacts for “Myth and Medium: Explore Athapaskan Artifacts in Their Homeland” (Source).

  • 2004:

    A Tr’ondek Hwech’in Heritage Office invited the Dawson City Museum to participate in the event Myth and Medium 2004 (See documents in Julia Correspondence, Box 39a, Dawson City Museum Archives).

Federal

  • 2000:

    Employment Policy

    There were some reductions in program amounts. Previously, the Dawson City Museum received funding for five students for eleven weeks. However, in 2000, the Museum received funding for five students for only ten weeks (Thistle 2000).

    Explicit Cultural Policy

    Tomorrow Starts Today was announced and led to investment in the arts and cultural sector, such as the cultural spaces fund (source) as well as the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program (source).

    Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC)

    The VMC was established.

  • 2002:

    Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

    The CCI conducted a report on the Dawson City Museum’s performance, finding “lt is imperative that key staff be hired on full time status … without key, full time staff, the museum’s operational profile will fall to levels which will question its ability to continue to operate as a museum” (p. 22 qtd in DCM Director Curator Report June 19 2002)

  • 2004:

    Parks Canada

    Parks Canada submitted the Tr’ondëk-Klondike for consideration as a UNESCO world heritage site (source).

  • 2006:

    Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) and Virtual Museums Canada

    CHIN launched an online museum learning space (DCM Newsletter vol. 22 no. 1).

    Explicit Museum Policy

    There was an unprecedented 3 hour debate in the house about museum funding and Members of parliament voted to both rescinding cuts to the Museums Assistance Program and establish a museums policy. A CMA communique on the topic sent to Yukon museums is available here and the relevant debate minutes are available here.

  • 2007:

    Explicit Cultural Policy

    The Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program was created to support local festivals and capital projects with an emphasis on local engagement (Source).

  • 2009:

    Explicit Cultural Policy

    The Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Programs was renewed, becoming the Cultural Investment Fund (Source).

Canada – Yukon

  • 2000:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Yukon government began developing two virtual museums with 100% funding from the federal government (Source)

  • 2006:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territorial government sponsored a Canadian Conservation Institute workshop on mannequin making (DCM Newsletter vol. 22 no. 2).

  • 2008:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territorial Museums Unit help a Canadian Conservation Institute workshop on the care of industrial artifacts in Dawson City (Meeting 2008).

Territorial

There were significant changes to the territorial funding practices in the 2000s. Most notably, some of the project funding shifted to operational funding in 2003-2004, leading to a notable increase in that grant amount.

A screenshot of Page 10 in the Cole Report
  • 2000:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Minister for Tourism articulated an intent to develop a Museum Strategy based on consultation (Source).

    Implicit Cultural Policy

    The Community Development Find, which had previously funded the Dawson City Museum’s new storage facility, was threatened as it underwent review (See for example documents in 2000 CDF application, Box 27b, Dawson City Museum Archives).

  • 2001:

    Explicit Cultural Policy

    The Art and Heritage branches merged (Slobodin 2001).

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territory began consultations on a new museum policy, but did not consult the museum community on the terms of reference for the study (DCM Newsletter June 2001). The Territory hired consultants who released a discussion paper (DCM Newsletter vol. 17 no. 3).

    The Museum Advisor began actively advising museums to be more entrepreneurial:

    I understand now that one of the museum advisors has been to the community of Teslin, talking to the George Johnston Museum Board, insisting that the museum have a gift shop of sorts or something where they could souvenirs, mementoes, that type of thing on a bigger scale.

    YLA 30.2.69

    Implicit Cultural Policy

    The Finance Administration Act led to a new accountability regime for the Community Museum Operations and Maintenance program, causing delays in receiving funding (See documents available in O&M correspondence, 29b, Dawson City Museum Archives)

  • 2002:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Consultants released a draft Museum Strategy Report – Strategy for Maintaining Yukon’s Museums (see documents available in Strategy for Yukon museums, Box 29a, Dawson City Museum Archives).

    Yukon formed an advisory committee to draft a strategy from the Report (YHMA 2002, Summer).

  • 2003:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Yukon began 3 year funding arrangements with “those institutions which have shown an ability to develop long term strategies” (Taylor 2003). They also added four new organizations to the funding program and shifted project funding into the operating grant program (AGM Director Report 2004).

    The Museum Advisor became increasingly unavailable to museums. In a report to the board, the Director of the Dawson City Museum wrote:

    We are still waiting to hear about the success of the exhibit grant and the security grant. Just before the long weekend, I called [Museum Advisor] about this and he said we would know by early the following week.  As is becoming common, I didn’t hear anything. So, I followed up with another call and he gave me the same promises, but nothing has been received yet.  I will continue to pester him until we know.

    DCM Report to Board forJuly 23 to August 26

    There was a Museum Roundtable with the Minister of Tourism and representatives from Dawson City Museum, MacBride, Old Log Church, the Transportation Museum, Miles Canyon Railway, YTG, Yukon Council of Archives, Heritage Resources Board, Beringia, Na Cho N’yak Dun First Nation, YHMA and George Johnston (Report to Oct 21 to November 27).

  • 2004:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The territorial government implemented a merit based funding arrangement, conducting a technical review of applications (Krahn 2004).

    The Heritage Training Trust Fund was established (YLA 31.1.81). The new program responded to Museum worker concerns. As stated in the Dawson City Museum newsletter:

    I was recently successful in receiving training money from the Yukon Heritage Training Fund. In my case, it was an example of good government at work. I had commented during a recent Yukon Museum Strategy revue that I wished for more accessible funding for training and upgrading and mny wish came true. The administrators of the fund were very helpful and co-operative and the application process was painless

    DCM Newsletter vol.20 no. 1

    There was continued funding for (YLA 31.1.81):

    • Operations
    • Exhibits Assistance
    • Conservation and Security
    • Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing
  • 2005:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Yukon Museum Strategy

    The Territorial Conservative came to Dawson City for a week for Spring cleaning. While there, she discussed the Museum’s projects, agreed to partially fund a locomotive restoration as well as other projects (DCM Report for April 22 to May 19 2005).

  • 2006:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    The Museum funding was divided into two categories – capital and operations (YLA 31.1.191).

    The Minister of Tourism and Culture announced $200,000 in new funding to museums (DCM Newsletter vol. 22 no. 2).

  • 2007:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    A Museums Advisory Committee was established with representation from the community museums.

    The new Museums Advisory Committee endorsed new funding to the Museums Contribution Program and the creation of new funding levels as follows:

    Chart in Board correspondence, Box 34, Dawson City Museum

    Yukon began distributing funding through Special Projects Assistance (YLA 32.1.47)

  • 2008:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    Yukon provided funding to museums for operations and through the Special Projects Capital Assistance Program (YLA 32.1.73).

  • 2009:

    Explicit Museum Policy

    A new Museum was added to the support program:

    The museums program, administered through the Department of Tourism and Culture, is pleased to provide support to 18 museums in the Yukon for a total of just over $1.3 million in direct funding support. This year we are very pleased to provide funding support of $38,000 to the newest member in the museum family, the John Tizya Centre in Old Crow.

    YLA 32.1.164

    The Yukon Museums Strategy was reviewed (Cambio 2013).

Local

  • 2001:

    The City only provided 2,500 in funding (See documents in City of Dawson Funding, box 28c, Dawson City Museum Archive)

  • 2002:

    The City restored funding to the Dawson City Museum to 10,000 (See documents available in City of Dawson funding, Box 29a, Dawson City Museum Archive).

  • 2006:

    The City was unable to commit funding to the Dawson City Museum, noting:

    As you know the municipality is striving to recover from dire financial hardship and still remains deep in debt. Unfortunately, until our financial picture has improved we must focus on ensuring that essential municipal services and infrastructure are maintained and therefore we are unable to commit any dollars outside of these core responsibilities. That said, we would certainly entertain any non-financial requests to support your work.

    city of Dawson funding 2006, Box 33, Dawson City Museum Archives.

Community Action

  • 2000:

    Local Community

    The Klondike Institute of Arts & Culture (KIAC) began the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival.

    Museum Community

    The Dawson City Museum participated in the Museums Alberta pilot project – the Museum Achievement Programme – to assess their programming (DCM Newsletter vol. 16 no. 1).

  • 2002:

    Local Community

    The Dawson City business community wrote letters in support for the Museum’s campaign for increased operational support (See Community Mobilized).

  • 2003:

    Local Community

    There was a Mammoth Conference in Dawson. The Museum participated by hosting the opening reception (DA Report for June 18, 2003).

    The Klondike Visitor’s Association eliminated the Community Casino grants due to funding constraints (AGM Director Report 2004).

    Museums Community

    The Yukon Historical and Museums Association commissioned Economic Impacts of Yukon Museums and Heritage Institutions

  • 2005:

    Museums Community

    The Director of the Dawson City Museum became the President of the Yukon Historical and Museums Association, working with the YHMA’s director on lobbying issues and sitting on the adjudication committee for the Heritage Training Fund. In that role, the Director attended the Canadian Museums Association’s FORUM meeting, which is a meeting of provincial associations. At the meeting, they realized they were all experiencing similar issues with student funding. The Director wrote (DCM Report for June 2005):

     I was thrilled to be at the table and will sit at the table as often as I am able.  We discussed a number of issues at the meeting.  All the PMA’s had experienced similar problems as Yukon with regard to student funding this year.  We decided as a body to send a letter to the Minister outlining our issues.  The letter that I presented to this board at our last meeting which I sent on behalf of Yukon was used as the basis of the Forum letter. 

  • 2007:

    Museum Community

    The Yukon Historical and Museums Association’s Artefacts Canada Treasures of the Yukon project led to collections work for Yukon Museums, including the Dawson City Museum:

    Work is currently underway at the Dawson City Museum where Erin is working to enhance the records in the collections database for the museums North Gallery where 892 artifacts are on display. To date 342 records have been enhanced, 94 records have been digitized and an inventory of the north gallery has been completed. Once work is completed at the Dawson City Museum the enhanced records from Keno City Mining Museum and the Dawson City Museum will be uploaded to Artefacts Canada

    Source
  • 2009:

    Local Community

    The City declared John Gould Day and the Dawson City Museum served as a gathering place, hosting his birthday (DCM 2009 and 2010 Chair message).

Questions

What do you think? Is anything important missing? What other events should be considered as I ask – How has the Dawson City Museum evolved in relation to government policy and community action?

References

Cambio. 2013, October. Yukon Museums & Cultural Centers: Annual Roundtable Workshop.

Catherine C. Cole & Associates. 2014, June.  Funding Allocation for Yukon Museums and First Nation Cultural / Heritage Centres Options Paper. Cultural Service Branch, Department of Tourism and Culture, Yukon Government. 

DCM – A file name: This documents are internal Dawson City Museum Minutes or reports.

Krahn, Ed. 2004, May. Letter to the Dawson City Museum. YTG O&M 2005, Box 32, Dawson City Museum Archives.

Meuthing, Garnet. 2008, Fall. “CCI Training: Industrial Conservation.” Newsletter: 5. https://www.heritageyukon.ca/sites/default/files/newsletters/Newsletter%20Fall%202008.pdf

Slobodin, Brent. 2001, Fall. “President’s Message.” Yukon Historical & Museums Association Newsletter. 3. 

Taylor, Elaine. 2003, March. Letter to the Dawson City Museum. Directors Correspondence 2003. Box 39. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Thistle, Paul. 2000, July. Letter to the Minister of Human Resources and Development Canada. Correspondence Director. Box 27b. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Thistle, Paul. 2001, September. Letter to the territorial conservator. O&M Correspondence. Box 29b. Dawson City Museum Archives.

Thistle, Paul. 2001, October. Letter to the Deputy Minister of Tourism. Lind Gallery Phase III. Box 28a. Dawson City Museum Archives.

YHMA. 2001, Fall. “Yukon Museum News and Notes“ Yukon Historical & Museums Association Newsletter. 7.

YHMA. 2002, Summer. “Museum Strategy Working Group.” Yukon Historical & Museums Association Newsletter. 5

Archival Photo Finds: Reading Room

After a very intensive week in the Dawson City Museum archives, I am sorting, reading, and analyzing what I found. In order to help with analysis, I discussed archival documents as part of the Archival Research series. The Archival Photo Finds series similarly considers the stories archival photos can tell.  

Within this post, I look at photos from the Klondike Heritage Library’s opening.

Photos

In the Dawson City Museum corporate archive, there is a collection of photograph credited to John Ritchammer from the opening of the Klondike Heritage Library in 1998. The library “opened” after a significant donation from Ed and Star Jones, providing space to access the Museum’s research materials. Photos from the dedication show the Jones’ involvement and community interest in the event. However, there is no attached information about the use and possible restrictions on the photos.

So, instead of provided you with images, I will encourage you to go to dawsonmuseum.ca and search through their wonderful collection as the photo examples for this posts. A search “Jones, Ed and Star” yields 585 results, demonstrating Ed and Star Jones’ significant contributions to the Dawson City Museum photo collections.

Screenshot of the Dawson City Museum website after searching “Jones, Ed and Star” on January 10, 2022

Here two examples of the pictures that come up, which I used in past posts:

Why do I find the pictures so exciting?

There are a few reasons these are interesting.

First, they highlight the Museum’s important role as an archive and site for research on the Klondike. Looking at the Museum’s archival records, they began receiving research requests as early as 1964 – that is, before the Museum even had any employees (Box 1: Genealogy/Research Requests 1964). The research role became increasingly important to the Museum and a deliberate area of activity. For example, the Museum did not follow recommendations and kept their records in the 1980s when they were advised to donate their archival collection to the Yukon Archives. Instead, the Museum used employment programs to support work on the archival collection and photography projects.

Second, the pictures demonstrate the ways in which community has shaped the Museum – that is, through donations. Importantly, the Museum has an extensive photo collection because people, including the Stars, donated photos to the collection. John Gould is another fun name to search in the collection. In particular, I recommend checking out his photos of the Bonanza Mining Museum.

Finally, these pictures demonstrate the importance of timing. They were taken in a distinct moment of time where the Museum was expanding its operations and receiving a lot of support. The dedication came with a promise of a full time staff member to work with the Museum’s library and archives. A few years later the Museum began experiencing financial difficulties and was unable to maintain the finances needed for the director position. If the donation had been made at that time, it seems less likely that the Museum could have secured the donation with a promise to maintain a library.

What can we learn from the pictures?

For me, they bring to mind ideas of institutionalism and path dependency. The Museum established a research role early and became a repository for documents or photos on the Klondike. As a result, the Museum still operates an archive despite the lack of funding for an archivist. 

Questions

Why do you think museums continue to operate archives when they often have difficulty funding them?

Archival Photo Finds: Quilted Emotions

After a very intensive week in the Dawson City Museum archives, I am sorting, reading, and analyzing what I found. In order to help with analysis, I discussed archival documents as part of the Archival Research series. The Archival Photo Finds series similarly considers the stories archival photos can tell.  

Within this post, I look at photos taken as part of the Quilted Emotions temporary exhibition in the 1980s.

Photos

Why do I find these pictures so exciting?

These pictures show Dawsonites creating quilts in the 1983.

In the mid 1980s, the Dawson City Museum underwent a 2.9-million-dollar renovation. They asked for a room that could be used as an exhibition space and got “the Big Black Box” – that is, a room without windows and painted black.  The first exhibition in the space was an exhibition of quilts created by the locals in the photos. 

Community

Before finding the pictures, the story was interesting because it is an example of the community’s influence on the Museum. The Museum’s temporary exhibitions were, historically, created in collaboration with the local community and/or for this community. The local community has thus shaped the stories that are told in the Museum. 

The pictures make the exhibition story more interesting to me because they show that the museum workers were also members of the local community. Several people who were involved with the Museum also participated in quilt creation. They were able to partner with the community to create an exhibition in part because they were that community.

Government Policy

Considering Yukon community museums more broadly, the Quilt exhibition is particularly notable because it enabled the Dawson City Museum to create Yukon’s first exhibition catalogue. The publication relied on funding from the Yukon Government, Yukon Lotteries Commission, and Canada Council. In other words, project funding enabled the catalogue’s creation.

The Quilt exhibition also provided the Museum with the time to develop permanent exhibitions for the newly renovated gallery, using project grants and employment programs.

What can we learn from the pictures?

The pictures challenge me to stop thinking of the Museum and the local community as two distinct groups. At times, the Museum, represented through staff and volunteers, has been an integral component of the community. 

The pictures also help illustrate that temporary exhibitions can provide chances to engage with communities. While permanent exhibitions rarely change and involve multi-year long processes to change, the Dawson City Museum’s temporary exhibitions can change regularly.

Questions

Do you have any great examples of temporary exhibitions providing the impetus for community engagement? How can we ensure that this engagement is not momentary / isolated to that exhibition?

Archival Photo Find: Jubilee Doll Photos

After a very intensive week in the Dawson City Museum archives, I am sorting, reading, and analyzing what I found. In order to help with analysis, I discussed archival documents as part of the Archival Research series. The Archival Photo Finds series similarly considers the stories archival photos can tell.  

In 1977, Dawson City celebrated its Diamond Jubilee year:

In preparation for the celebrations, the Dawson City Museum employed people to create Jubilee Dolls under the banner “Big Cabin Crafts.” Within this post, I look at photos of these Jubilee Dolls and their creation.

Photos

What can we learn from these pictures?

The Dawson City Museum facilitated Big Cabin Crafts, using a Local Initiatives Program (LIP) grant in winter 1976. LIP was a federal employment program, which enabled the Museum’s first director/curator to work year-round. 

Big Cabin Crafts and the picture above of people creating the dolls illustrates the Museum’s relationship to the community as an employer. Importantly, LIP provided employment in areas, such as Dawson City, suffering due to de-industrialization in the 1970s. The funding allowed the Museum to serve the community’s needs by providing winter employment to a number of people. 

In short, government policy influenced the Museum through the provision of an employment grant, which helped the Museum better serve community needs.

What are some of the lasting impacts of LIP and Big Cabin Crafts on the Museum?

There are several lasting impacts of the Jubilee Doll project:

  • One of the dolls is still on display at the Museum as part of a display on celebrations.
  • Employment and more general project grants became the primary means through which the Museum supported paid staff. 
  • When the territory established a grant program explicitly for museums in the 1980s with a curator salary component, advocates pointed to the work accomplished at the Dawson City Museum when they employed someone year-round. 

In short, the use of an LIP grant for Big Cabin Crafts led to a doll in the collection, provided a template for museum employment that continues today, and demonstrated the value of year round employment, which informed the development of a territorial grant program.

Questions

Short term employment and other project grants continue to be a source of funding for staff within museums in what is now called Canada. What effect do you think this has on community museum development and capacity?

Archival Photo Finds: Evolving exhibitions

After a very intensive week in the Dawson City Museum archives, I am sorting, reading, and analyzing what I found. In order to help with analysis, I discussed archival documents as part of the Archival Research series. The Archival Photo Finds series similarly considers the stories archival photos can tell.  

Within this post, I look at photos of the Museum’s permanent exhibitions from 1959 to today. 

Photos

1959

1962

1976 – 1978

1989

2010s – 2020

2021

Why do I find the pictures so exciting?

The photos demonstrate an evolution in how artifacts were displayed in a community museum with a relatively small budget. 

Prior to the 1970s, the Museum objects were grouped together with some organization. However, the space had a “community attic” feel without a narrative. Here is an example:

In the 1970s, the Museum began to employ a year-round director who used employment programs to hire staff. The paid staff worked to professionalize the Museum, organizing the exhibitions to tell stories. Here is an example, which shows the development of Dawson City chronologically with different eras:

The photo was found in the Dawson City Museum Corporate Archives with 1976-77 on the back (Box 41; 2000.16.152).

They also began creating dioramas, which organized artifacts according to themes (e.g., items seen in a store):

The photo was found in the Dawson City Museum Corporate Archives with 1977-78 on the back (Box 40; 2000.16.159)

In the 1980s, Parks Canada members were on the Museum’s board, participating on the display committee when dioramas were a popular way to exhibit materials in museums. As such, the Museum staff created more dioramic displays like the one below :

This image is of a postcard from the Dawson City Museum, showing a Miner’s Cabin. The Cabin was built as early as 1989 (see photo above).

The Museum opened a new permanent exhibition in the early 2000s, renovating part of the South Gallery. However, I do not have pictures illustrating this change. If you have any images of the “Lind Gallery,” please let me know!

In 2009 the Museum made mannequins that looked like community members. These mannequins then populated the exhibitions. Here is an example of a mannequin in the Miner’s Cabin from the photo above:

A Miner's Cabin diorama with a mannequin that looks like a community member.

Recently, the Museum opened their new exhibitions. They were created in partnership with a design team and use more contemporary methods of display. For example, information is considered thematically rather than chronologically, there are no dioramas, and some objects are behind glass.

Here are some photos of one of my favorite themes – Klondikephilia:

Interestingly, has kept a community museum feel with large groupings and collections of objects. There are so many artifacts on display! Here is an updated visible storage display:

What can we learn from the pictures?

The pictures demonstrate staffs’ commitment to creating professional museum displays despite limited resources. As expectations and best practices have changed, so has the Museum.

The pictures also help answer the research question – How has the Dawson City Museum developed in relation to government policy and community action?

  • Government policy: The creation of new exhibitions requires money. The Museum’s ability to update and renew the space, therefore, depends on government policy. Both the territorial and federal government have provided funding for exhibition development through programs that address museum or cultural policy goals. The Museum has also accessed funding from other programs, such as the territory’s Community Development Fund.
  • Community action: The community is reflected in the exhibitions, which tell stories about community action. Further:
    • The dioramas reflect the approach taken to exhibitions within Dawson City’s heritage community.
    • The objects displayed were donated from communities of people interested in the Klondike.
    • The mannequins are a literal reflection of the local community.
    • And, perhaps most importantly, the Museum is a vehicle through which the local community is presented to tourists. The permanent exhibitions have reflected the stories the Museum staff and board members, who are also members of the local community, feel are important to tell.

I look forward to seeing how the Museum continues to evolve over time!

Questions

What is your biggest take away from the pictures? What do you think that we can learn?

Do you agree with the connections I have made to government policy and community action?

Do you have any pictures of the Dawson City Museum’s interior that would enrich this presentation?