Research: Interviews Part Two

I did the first interview last week! Or, more accurately, I did a practice interview with my community partner.

The first interview is the most difficult for me because I get nervous, asking:

  • What if my questions are poorly written?
  • What if the recording does not work?
  • What if I come across as uninformed?
  • What if the participant feels I have wasted their time?
  • How silly am I going to sound in the recording?

Within the last post on interviews, I considered the steps leading up to the interviews. This post expands on step two, considering the prep work immediately after the interview is scheduled. More specifically I am answering:

What preparation do I do mitigate the nervousness described above?

What if my questions are poorly written?

My question guide is available here:

This is not an “if” issue. One or more of my questions are likely poorly written. However, during the first interview, problems did not arise when I read the questions as they were written. My bigger problem is that when I adjust the questions to better fit the conversation and connect to what we’re discussing, I fumble.

Other than spending time writing and editing the question guide at the beginning, I don’t know how to better prepare for this issue. Suggestions are welcome.

What if the recording does not work?

This is my nightmare: I go home, attempt to download the audio, and it is missing or corrupted.

I do not know what I would do in that situation. Cry?

So, I do my best to avoid it at all costs. In the last interviews post, I asked: How would you record phone conversations?

I am making two recordings in an attempt to avoid my nightmare and ensure at least one works:

  1. TapeACall: I did some searching and this seems to be a good app to record conversations on an iPhone with a decent paid transcription function. Before using it for an interview, I called my dad and had a random conversation about tools. It seems to work well.
  2. Speakerphone and a recorder: My backup is a regular audio recorder, which I have used in other projects for in person interviews.

With two recording methods, fingers crossed the recording will always work… I have spare batteries prepped for the recorder and everything!

What if I come across as uninformed?

As I outlined in the last interview post, some pre-research is required because it helps me ask better questions and avoid annoying people. If someone has already expressed themselves on a topic, but I want more information it helps to say something like: “In _____ you said ______. Could you expand a bit? I am not sure I understand _______.”

While research helps, the purpose of interviews is to learn from the participants so, of course, I am less informed than they are. This is a silly concern.

What if the participant feels I have wasted their time?

I am constantly worried people will feel I have wasted their time when I interview them. However, generally speaking, the museum community is extremely willing to help facilitate research about the museum community. More broadly, people like talking about themselves and believe their work is worth sharing. So, the best thing to do, is to come prepared and make sure the participants know how much I appreciate their time.

How silly am I going to sound in the recording?

Very. I am going to sound very silly in the recording. Listening to my own voice is awful. Nothing can be done.

Questions

Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid nervousness and prepare for a good interview?

Reflections: What interest groups or networks of significance exist in Yukon? What issues have they identified as significant?

As part of my pre-interview reflections for the Dawson City Museum (DCM) Project, this post considers: 

What interest groups or networks of significance exist and what issues have they identified as significant?

Like the posts on ideas and institutions, this post is a preliminary reflection that will evolved as I do interviews. In particular, I suspect there are more local networks that I have not adequately considered and/or networks of relevance related to community museums’ roles as tourist institutions in Yukon. 

I have organized this post in terms of jurisdiction.

National

Instead of considering the federal government exclusively, I have decided to incorporate the idea of nation to nation in my research. From now on, I will consider both the “Canadian government” and First Nations as national jurisdictions.

Yukon First Nations

First Nations’ Cultural Centers (such as, the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre in what is now Dawson City) receive funding under the Yukon Government’s museum operational funding program. However, these institutions are distinct from community museums.

The differences begin with the distinct settler-based and Yukon First Nations’ conceptions of heritage. A Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in document states:

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have a broad definition and perception of what heritage is and what it includes. Heritage is not something from the past, but a way of life reflected in the beliefs, values, knowledge, and practices passed from generation to generation. Heritage permeates all aspects of First Nation lives, communities, and governance. It includes much more than the material remains that are left behind. These heritage resources are understood as physical reminders of what is truly important.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Heritage Department 2011, 8

I do not know how the Cultural Centers began receiving funding under the museum program (yet). However, Umbrella Final Agreement (1993) mandated a more equitable distribution of Yukon Government program dollars related to heritage resource management. The agreement states:

As the Heritage Resources of Yukon Indian People are underdeveloped relative to non-Indian Heritage Resources, priority in the allocation of Government program resources available from time to time for Yukon Heritage Resources development and management shall, where practicable, be given to the development and management of Heritage Resources of Yukon Indian People, until an equitable distribution of program resources is achieved.

13.4.1

Considering the Umbrella Agreement, I believe advocacy around heritage resource management is likely of significance to community museum policy development.

However, in a post on interest groups and advocacy, I am struggling with who and what I should consider here. I think the problem is that I should have included a section titled “First Nations – Territorial” in my post on institutions. The intersections between First Nations and the territorial government are relevant. As such, moving forward, I will more actively consider these intersections.

In terms of advocacy groups of interest to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in or Yukon First Nation heritage resource management more broadly, I don’t know where to look.

Are there advocacy groups at this level that I should consider? Since I am consider a settler institution, what is the relevance of advocacy to this jurisdiction? Moving forward, this is something I will be asking in interviews (when appropriate).

Federal

When I interviewed the Canadian Museums Association’s (CMA) Executive Director (now retired) as part of my PhD research in 2018, he emphasized the significance of the Association’s advocacy role.

Reflecting the importance of that role, the CMA has a webpage (very helpfully) titled “advocacy,” which draws attention to the issues they have identified as significant. These issues include:

  • Copyright legislation revisions 
  • Museums’ need for pandemic relief specifically and increased federal funding more broadly
  • National museum policy – that is, the lack of a current articulated museum policy for non-national museums. The last policy is from 1990. It is out of date, making references to a department that no longer exists and promises that were not kept. 

Advocacy for the development of a renewed national museum policy is of particular importance and has been a component of the CMA’s advocacy work for about 20 years.

National – Territorial

First Nation – Territorial

I suspect the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association will become relevant here. However, at the moment, I do not know and cannot find anything of relevance online.

Federal – Territorial

Screenshot of the YHMA logo

The territorial museum association is the Yukon Historical and Museums Association (YHMA or, confusingly, Heritage Yukon on their website). Importantly, the subnational associations are often involved in the national association’s advocacy. For example, the YHMA’s name is on a CMA news release (here) asking for a review of national museum policy, increased funding, and simplified applications for small museums.

Screenshot of the BC Museums Association logo

There is also collaboration between subnational associations. For example, the YHMA made a joint submission (here) with the BC Museums Association (BCMA) for the federal budget consultations. Their concerns included:

  • Pandemic relief
  • Increased federal funding
  • A national museums policy that complies with UNDRIP

Territorial

Yukon had its most recent territorial election in 2021. I cannot find an advocacy paper from the YHMA for the election. However, they asked the parties questions about heritage and posted the answers (here). The questions suggest that the YHMA concerns are:

  • Territorial policy. As seen at the federal level, the existing museum policy is from 89/90 and is outdated.
  • Museums’ need for pandemic relief and increased funding. 
  • Property taxes as a barrier for some museums
  • The need for government to collaborate with museums on related issues

I was a little surprised at the limited about of advocacy or training information for museums on the YHMA website. My surprise may be unfair and a function of having studied the Ontario Museum Association (OMA) so recently. The OMA is an association for a subnational region with more museums, meaning it has more capacity. 

That being said, it is also possible the YHMA functions like a historical society with a museums committee rather than a museums association. I am currently reading the YHMA newsletters from the late 70s to the 90s and these documents remind me of the Ontario Historical Society’s (OHS) work. The OHS has a museums committee and does work to support its members who are museums. However, both the YHMA and OHS have a broad focus and expend efforts on issues like cemetery preservation and circulating research on the history of the region. The broad focus means their limited capacity is not always devoted to museum issues. I am excited to learn more and expand on this idea as I do research.

Local

The Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) seems to be a significant interest group for the tourism sector at a local level. In Dawson City, heritage organizations (e.g., Parks Canada, the DCM) are extremely important members of this sector (e.g., the DCM Executive Director is also a member of the KVA Board). However, I have not yet found relevant advocacy documents to use in my analysis.

This points to broader research gaps that I hope to fill – that is, local level advocacy work and work related to museums as tourist organizations.

Summary

Museums (or, I should say, their associations) want a new museum policy at both the national and territorial level. Another common concern includes the need for more money (in normal times and covid times).

Questions

What interest groups should I consider in addition to museum associations?

My next question is part of a broader area of confusion for me. People in the cultural sector often ask for an articulated and comprehensive policy document. However, I am not convinced that policy articulations – that is, a document called “museum policy” or “cultural policy” – will actually lead to more secure or increased support for a few reasons:

  • Since the 1990s, policy articulations for culture have led to long term commitments as financial investment is needed in implementation. For example, the 1990 federal community museum policy promised increases to the Museums Assistance Program. There were cuts to the program in the mid 90s and the program offers less support now than it did in the 70s. Here is a statement from the CMA on the issue:

The Museums Assistance Program (MAP), a main funding source for Canada’s museums, has seen a consistent decline in funding since being introduced in 1972. In 1977, MAP funding reached its highest level with a program budget that was $15 million 1, valued at $63 million today when adjusted for inflation. The Program’s budget in 2016-17 was $16.2 million, 74% lower than in 1977 

source
  • In the 21st century (and the 90s to some extent), cultural policy articulations within what is now known as Canada are often pretty vague. They aim to articulate a broader direction without necessarily institutionalizing the specific actions and programs that will enact the policy. Ontario’s heritage policy review (late 80s and early 90s) and Cultural Strategy are both examples.  

In my opinion, the creation of programs and their annual budgets (cuts or increases) create more significant changes than policy documents (which, as seen in Ontario, the next party in power can ignore). Here is an example of what I mean:

  • The national museum policy from the 1970s was originally announced in a speech. Then, the policy of democratization and decentralization was articulated with a commitment to specific actions, such as:
    • Funding that continues today (though in a reduced capacity) through MAP
    • The establishment of the Canadian Conservation Institution, which still exists.
    • The establishment of the Canadian Heritage Information Network’s predecessor (the national inventory project).
  • Yukon operational funding for museums increased in 2003-2004, 2007-2008, and then over three years started in 2015. To my knowledge, the last territorial policy document was a museum strategy in 2005 and anytime funding for the program increases it has not gone down. 

So, I am genuinely curious. Why do these interest groups pursue policy articulations so persistently?

For example, museum support is historical tied to tourism funding in Yukon. Why not lean into that? I assume an increase in operational funding = the most helpful thing the Yukon government could do for community museums, which would lead to a better product that supports tourism and encourages tourists to stay in Yukon longer.

What do you think? Is arguing for a policy an effective approach? 

Reflections: What actors support and regulate community museums in Yukon?

by Robin Nelson

As part of my pre-interview reflections for the Dawson City Museum (DCM) Project, this post considers: 

What actors – in particular, formal institutions, programs, and policies – support and regulate community museums in Yukon?

Importantly, like the post on ideas, this post represents a preliminary reflection – that is, a work in progress. Ideally, as I learn from people, the answer will evolve and expand with a better understanding of the most significant components. 

I have organized my reflection into the following categories:

  • Direct Financial
    • Operational funding
    • Project funding
    • Employment
  • Indirect Financial
    • Building
    • Other
  • Direct Assistance
    • Advisory and related services 
    • Training
  • Indirect assistance
    • Research
    • Marketing
    • Advocacy
  • Regulatory activities
    • Licenses
    • Buildings
    • Other

Direct Financial

Operational Funding

Operational funding is, arguably, the most important form of support for community museums. Without support that can be used flexibly for their basic activities, museums cannot function. 

It is also a form of support that can be more difficult to get for a few reasons:

  1. Operational costs are ongoing expenses rather than a one-time investment. 
  2. Operational funding sustains activities that are less attractive to funders (e.g., cleaning, administrative work, salaries, basic maintenance) instead of exciting new projects (e.g., an exhibition, program addressing funder goals). 
  3. The costs of these activities increase over time due to things like inflation, capital projects, and increased professionalization. 

Within what is now known as Canada, operational funding for community museum comes from local or provincial/territorial governments (in addition to earned revenues).  

The territorial government seems to be the most significant funder of museum operations in Yukon. When discussing the rationale behind museum support, I outlined the development of this program (here). 

Some Yukon municipalities provide operational funding (source). While the municipality is not currently an operational funder for the DCM, it provided funding in the past and I look forward to learning more about this relationship.

Project Funding

Project funding is, as the name suggests, funding for projects. 

There are a range of programs that could be relevant from all levels of government and the nonprofit sector within different areas of activity (e.g, tourism, community development, culture). 

Although there are some persistent programs that fund projects (e.g., the federal Museums Assistance Program has existed since the 70s), there are also regular changes in the grant programs available as funder objectives change or new issues emerge. Many project grant programs are actually designed to be short-lived with a set commitment (e.g., a certain amount of money over 3-5 years). As a result, I assume this section is very incomplete.

Federal

I do not have a record of federal project support for the DCM prior to the 70s, reflecting the lack of federal investment in community museums at that time. It is possible that I will find evidence of centennial related project funding from the late 1950s until the centennial in 1967.  

The Museums Assistance Program (MAP) is the longest running federal support program for community museums. It started as part of the 1972 National Museum Policy.  

The National Museums Corporation (NMC), which is now multiple crown corporations that govern one or more of the national museums, was originally responsible for the program. When the NMC disbanded, MAP became the Department of Communication’s responsibility before the Department of Canadian Heritage was created in the early 90s. The Department has continued to facilitate MAP and additional funding programs for culture, which may become significant.

Based on my existing research and conversations with the community partner for the project, here are additional areas of action and government actors that may become relevant:

  • Funding areas:
    • Tourism
    • Multiculturalism
    • Official languages
    • Business development
    • COVID Relief
  • Agencies / Corporations
    • Canada Council
    • Parks Canada
    • Canadian Conservation Institute

I am probably missing something. Do you know of a federal initiative or institution that should be on this list?

Federal – Territorial

The Yukon Legislative Assembly minutes suggest that federal-territorial partnerships are incredibly significant to museum support (and Yukon activities more broadly). For instance, the territorial program for conservation mentioned below was possible through federal funding. As a result, I will need to pay attention to the various federal – territorial agreements. 

For the most part, I am unsure which will become significant. However, it is clear that the Tourism Industry Development Subsidiary Agreement is significant because the Canada-Yukon Tourism Agreement involved joint funding programs that the DCM accessed in the 1980s. In particular, there was funding for facilities improvements, including the DCM’s building. 

Are there other agreements that you believe I should look into?

Territorial

Currently, the territorial government provides project funding through the Special Projects Capital Assistance Program. The Program combines several projects grants that targeted community museums and changed over time. There have been programs for large and small capital initiatives, artifact acquisitions, conservation, exhibits, collections management, and security.

As seen in the sections above, project grants that community museums access include more than the grants targeting museums explicitly or exclusively. In particular, there has been tourism and community development funding of relevance to the DCM. The Community Development Fund (CDF) seems to be particularly significant, providing the DCM funding for things like like capital improvements (Doiron 2001).

Image from a Yukon Government Tweet. It says: "Yukon Nine community Projects receive more than $126,000."
Image of a tweet about the CDF program in 2019

Other areas that may be significant include:

  • non program dollars 
  • Lottery Commission grants
  • Yukon Arts Council programs

Are there other territorial programs, areas of action, or agencies that I may be missing?

Local and More

There are project grants available from Dawson City, the local government. I look forward to learning more about this local level relationship as I do not know anything yet!

Other non-governmental actors include:

  • Museum associations
  • Private organizations or foundations

I have a list of what I think are grants that have come up, but I do not know anything about them:

  • Access to the Arts (1976)
  • Historical Resources Program
  • Business Development 

What non-governmental actors providing project funding or local support programs do you think I will need to consider?

Employment

As stated above, operational funding is one of the most helpful sources of support for museums because it enables them to fund basic operations and develop capacity. Operational funding allows community museums to hire an Executive Director and other full-time staff (e.g., a curator position at the DCM). However, one person working alone (or two or three) have limited capacity to animate a site or do even the most basic museum functions. 

Due to community museums’ limited human resource capacity, I have argued elsewhere (Nelson 2019) that student employment programs are the foundation on which community museum policies are built. Since the 1970s, many (most?) community museums have an increase in employees during the summer due to employment programs.

While summer student employment programs are the most prominent within my past research, there are others of relevance. Here is a list of employment programs that have been mentioned within the research I have done thus far:

  • Canada Community Services Projects (1980s): A federal program that supported employment projects to add value to the community and help those at a competitive disadvantage in the job market. 
  • Canada Works / Section 38 (1970s – 1990s): A federal program that created jobs for unemployed people.
  • Canada/Yukon Job Development Program (mid 1980s): A joint funding program that aimed to provide work experience and training (possibly to those at a disadvantage in the job market)
  • Local Employment Opportunities Program (1980s – c. 1998): A federally funded and territorially administered program that provided funding for projects of value to the community with extensive use of local materials and employment. The program was used extensively in Dawson City (source)
  • Local Initiatives Program (1971-1977): A federal program that aimed to create jobs through grants to areas with high unemployment.
  • New Horizons: A federal program for older adults that exists today.
  • Special Employment Assistance Program (1980s): I believe the program was territorial, but am uncertain. It provided funding for student employment (source)
  • Summer Canada (1983-1985): The program aimed to provide students with meaningful experiences that also benefited their community. 
  • Summer Employment Challenge (insert year) program (1980s): A joint federal – provincial / territorial program that provided for student jobs. 
  • Summer Job Core Grants (1978): I do not know what this is.  
  • Winter Works: There have been both federal and territorial initiatives called “winter works.” The title shows up in the DCM archive file listing in the 1980s and is an area for future research.  
  • Young Canada Works (1977 – ): The federal government facilitated a YCW program from 1977-1980. At some point (I am looking for the year), the Canadian Museums Association began facilitating a similar program with the same name, but for heritage, that continues today and is one of the most significant employment programs for community museums across what is now known as Canada.

If you’re interested in learning about job programs more broadly, this article is a great source: Roy and Wong 2000

Employment programs as community museum policy is one of my broader research interests. If you have thoughts and suggestions on what I should look at, I would love to hear them! 

Indirect Financial

At times, support is evident when considering the money a museum does not have to pay rather than money it receives. Within cultural policy, tax relief is a common example of an indirect form of financial support. However, there are actions to consider.

Building

In the other jurisdictions that I have studied (ON and NB), the free use of space is a significant municipal contribution to community museums. Municipalities will allow museums to use a space (usually a building of historic significance) for free or a nominal fee. The agreement may also include free maintenance and/or utilities. The use of a municipal space also means the museum does not have to pay property tax, which can be a significant burden at some institutions. 

The Old Territorial Administration Building

Interestingly, in the DCM case, the territorial government has provided the building and maintenance. After their first location burnt down, the DCM opened in the Old Territorial Administration Building in 1962. The historic site and its use seem to be a significant factor in the museum’s relationship with the territory.

I am interested to see whether (or I expect how) the building is discussed during interviews. 

Other

I am unsure what other forms of indirect financial support are significant to the DCM. For example, their records include files on the Power Rate Relief Program, and I don’t know what that is. 

Do you have any ideas about indirect financial support that I should be considering?

Direct Assistance

Community museum policies at the national and subnational levels tend to focus on quality and standardization in the sector, which leads to initiatives providing assistance or advice rather than (ideally in addition to) money. 

Advisory and Related Services

Federal

Parks Canada (and the historical equivalent) has a significant presence in Dawson City, starting on a limited scale in the 50s and then expanding in the 60s/70s. As a result, there are personal and professional relationships between experts working for Parks Canada and DCM employees. A report from 1980 argues the DCM’s relationship to Parks Canada contributed significantly to its development:

Clearly, the museum has benefited from this arrangement, to the point where its programs are the most advanced and effective of any Yukon museum.

Johnson 1980

I look forward to learning more about this relationship and, exactly, how it influenced the DCM’s development. Information about Yukon’s conservation program suggests the relationship may have focused, at some point, on collections management and conservation. However, I imagine the relationship has evolved over time as employees change or the federal government launches new initiatives.  

The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) is another federal actor that historically provided free conservation and advisory services to community museums across what is now known as Canada. Considering the historical proximity of Parks Canada’s conservators to the DCM, I am unsure what (if any) significance the CCI has had on the museum’s collections. 

There are other federal agencies and departments that may become relevant (e.g., Canada Council, Department of Northern Affairs) in terms of advice or services. However, I am most interested in trying to learn about the “young cataloguer from the National Museum in Ottawa” who spent a week in Dawson in 1962 and:

scrubbed old shoes, carpenter tools, rusty lamps, and dirty pots.

Warner 1963, 14

He also introduced the museum volunteers to:

the intricacies of cataloguing every item in the place. 

Warner 1963, 14

I have never heard of a federal assistance program prior to the development of the National Museums Corporation and am so intrigued. If you can shed any light on who this person was, why they were there, and whether it was part of a larger program, please contact me!

Territorial

Yukon hired its first museums advisor in 1984 and, thanks to federal funding, it then also hired a conservator who provided related services. I do not know what the DCM’s relationship to these people has been or how Yukon’s conservation / advisory program developed. It will be fun to learn more!

Other

The DCM has historically had relationships with museum associations (e.g., YHMA, CMA, BCMA), which I will discuss under training. The DCM also has an archive and, as such, has presumably had a relationship to archival nonprofit organizations. These associations provide kinds of advisory services.

In particular, I am currently reading through the Yukon Historical and Museums Association (YHMA) newsletter and have previously read various Canadian Museums Association (CMA) content. I will do a post at some point about the role of newsletters for these museum associations prior to the development of the internet. They are interesting and were important sources of advice for museums.

Do you know any other non-governmental actors providing advice or assistance that I should be considering?

Training

The Canadian Museums Association (CMA) developed training programs in the 60s but then regulated the responsibility to provincial / territorial associations, like the YHMA. As early as 1977, DCM employees went to BC Museum Association events for training. Other relevant training sources may include:

  • The territorial museum advisor and conservator
  • Parks Canada
  • The Canadian Conservation Institute
  • Heritage Yukon 

Tangentially, there are also actors funding training, such as the CMA, Yukon Heritage Training Fund, the NMC, and (likely) more.

Are there any other low or no cost training programs that you believe will be relevant? How about funders for the training that I have missed?

Indirect Assistance

Indirect assistance refers to services that benefit community museums as a collective without targeting an individual museum.

Research

A significant take away from my PhD interviews was the importance of data for community museums as a collective and individually. It is important to have research supported arguments when advocating or planning.

There are various federal-level reports and initiatives that may become relevant, but these are too numerous to name before I have talked to people in order to narrow it down. The Nielsen Task Force, for example, involved a review of federal programs. It discussed the objects within national collections, which were displaced from Yukon and argued they should be returned. Their Report influenced the development of territorial support for community museums (source).

On a more local scale, the Yukon Territorial Government is a significant funder of research relating to Yukon community museums. They have hired consultants to conduct research and write reports when considering changes to their own programs in the 1980s, 2000s, and 2010s. They have also funded research commissioned by the YHMA, such as a report on the economic impact of museums (source).  

Do you have an example of research that is or was significant to Yukon community museums, which I should considered?

Marketing

Picture of the cover of my passport
Picture of my passport

Within some jurisdictions, marketing support for community museums is a significant means of helping them generate increased earned revenue. 

Within Yukon, the government began the Yukon Gold Explorers Passport program in 1992, giving visitors a chance to win a piece of Klondike gold after getting stamps at different museums, First Nation Cultural Centers, and visitor centers. The program is seen as beneficial to museums:

The program was particularly beneficial to museums, which generally reported a significant increase in visitation. 

Source

Relatedly, highway sign policies were significant in my research on Ontario. The Yukon legislative assembly minutes suggest they may also be important to Yukon community museums.

Broader tourism policies and initiatives at all levels of government is another marketing related area that I will pay attention to. 

Do you think I am missing something in terms of significant marketed support for community museums in Yukon?

Advocacy

Interestingly, the MacBride Museum is discussed a fair bit in the legislative assembly minutes, which mention individual advocacy efforts. However, in other research projects, I have found collective advocacy initiatives through a museum association more significant to the development of subnational community museum policies. In Yukon, the Yukon Historical and Museums Association (YHMA) is mentioned in legislative assembly minutes discussing consultations and decision making. I am excited to learn more about their role.

If you are interested in learning more about the role of associations, I have published two pieces related to Ontario’s associations: Nelson 2021a and Nelson 2021b.

How significant are associations to advocacy in your opinion? Are there advocacy related actors I should consider in addition to the museum itself and the YHMA?

Regulatory

Licenses

As part of their fundraising practices the DCM has had to get lottery licenses. So, I expect regulations around these licenses will become significant.

Are there other licenses of significance to Yukon community museums?

Building

The DCM is in a historic building. In my past research, I have been told about the challenges of following things like fire code and accessibility legislation in a historic site. Within the Yukon legislative assembly minutes there is some discussion around the challenges of installing a sprinkler system in a way that is sympathetic to the historic site’s original design at the DCM (Source). So, I think fire code legislation will become significant, but I do not believe Yukon has accessibility legislation. 

Are there other building related regulations that you believe I will have to pay attention to?

Other

Yukon does not have museum standards attached to funding (that I am aware of). However, Cole & Associates (2014) mention a standards committee being formed in 2013. I am curious about the development of museum standards (or lack thereof) in Yukon.

Since the DCM is a nonprofit organization and registered charity, I expect there is related legislation (e.g., the Societies Act) of relevance. The Museum also has paid staff, meaning there is employment legislation of relevance. I look forward to learning what people connected to the DCM believe I should be considering.

How about you? Are there additional regulatory activities that you think will become important?

Questions

I do not have a specific question to end the post on because I have placed questions throughout.

As I start interviews, the outline I have developed will evolve. I hope that posting about it will help that evolution and strengthen my consideration. If you have ideas, let me know! I look forward to learning from you. 

Bibliography

Most sources used include an embedded link. The following sources do not have a public digital copy.

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. 

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

Reflections: What rationale underlines and legitimizes government action targeting community museums in Yukon?

by Robin Nelson

As part of my pre-interview reflections for the Dawson City Museum (DCM) Project, this post considers the question: What rationale underlines and legitimizes government action targeting community museums in Yukon? 

In the interest of clarity and brevity, this post focuses narrowly on the Yukon government’s operational funding for museums, asking:

Why has the Yukon government historically provided operational funding to Yukon community museums?

Background: Past Research

Due to my past research, I have preconceptions about how governments justify support for community museums, which may have influenced my reflection in this post. 

My dissertation (Nelson 2021) considered how government support for community museums in Ontario has been rationalized over time, within different contexts, and by specific actors (people, organizations, documents, etc.). I found five prominent arguments for museum support: 

  • Museums are:
    • Educational
    • Tourist Assets
    • Inherently valuable as collecting institutions
    • Identity / community builders that reflect diversity and encourage tolerance
  • Ontario should support them:
    • To support local activity or to encourage local investment

Here are some screenshots from Ontario Museum Association resources that make these arguments:

Background: Yukon’s Operating Grant Program

Most reports indicate operational support for community museums in Yukon began with an operations and maintenance program in the mid 1980s. I think there is a more complicated history.

Here is some evidence that Yukon has periodically supported community museums’ operations since (at least) 1959:

  • 1959: The Council passed a resolution indicating the MacBride Museum should receive funding (source).

  • 1961: The federal government had been providing a museum grant, which the Dawson City and MacBride museums split before 1961. When the grant stopped, it appears an annual territorial grant began (source).

  • 1968: Support for community museums’ operations is mentioned as a kind of special contributions grant in a report proposing funding procedures (source).

  • 1970: Yukon’s Commissioner stated there was no money for museums (source).

During the 1970s, there were different versions of a capital program explicitly for museums. While there does not appear to have been an operating grant for museums, there was an operating grant for registered Societies that contributed to the development of tourism. Some museums were eligible for that grant (source). I assume I will find evidence that the Dawson City Museum received this funding.

I am a little confused about exactly when the operations grant for community museums began in the 1980s, how many museums originally received the support, or how it was originally administered. The most comprehensive report I have read states:

When the funding program was introduced in the 1980s there were few museums.

Cole & Associates 2014, 7

Here is the timeline of the programs’ development that I have assembled:

  • 1983: Yukon provides $60,000 in operations and capital funding to six museums (source)

  • 1985: The two largest museums (the MacBride and Dawson City museums) receive an increase in funding with matching dollars for curatorial salaries (source).

  • Late 80s – 1990: After consultations and a report, Yukon releases a Museums Policy (1990).

  • Early 2000s: After consultation and a report (again), Yukon develops a Museums Strategy.

    Operational funding for those in the operational grant program (seven at that time) increases.

  • 2003: Four museums (previously ineligible) enter the program.  

  • 2004: First Nations Cultural Centers begin receiving funding.

  • 2008: Yukon introduces three year funding agreements.

  • 2014: The Cole report (2014) recommends increased funding.

  • 2015: The Minister of Tourism and Culture announces a 20% increase to the program (I have been told that it was, in practice, a 30% increase over three years). 

I am not sure if there have been any more recent developments. This timeline is a work in progress!

Museum Policy as Tourism Policy

The early support mentioned is not clearly rationalized, suggesting a perceived inherent value for museums. 

However, when the Commissioner said there was no money for museums in 1970, his statement suggested he saw little value in museums for communities, noting: 

we’re having a difficult enough time taking care of the living without worrying about the dead. 

YLA

During the 1970s, museums then became eligible for grants (capital and operational) due to their connection to tourism. Museums contributions to the tourism industry became the predominant articulated rationale for the Yukon’s operational funding to museums. 

The connection to tourism is most evident when considering the department from which Yukon museums receive funding. Here is a table with the information I have compiled thus far (its a work in progress!):

Year Department Responsible for Museums
Tourism
Tourism and Economic Development
1981Heritage and Cultural Resources (Briefly
Library and Information Resources)
1982Tourism, Heritage and Cultural Resources
1985Tourism
2001Business, Tourism and Culture
2003 – currentTourism and Culture

As you can see, museums have almost always been the responsibility of a Department of Tourism with a brief exception during the 1980s. The Department of Tourism, Heritage and Cultural Resources defined the museum specific operating grant, which then expanded under all subsequent tourism departments.

Tourism related activities seem to have contributed to the program’s expansion. For example, in 1992, Yukon began funding a marketing program for museums (that still exists today – the explorers’ passport).  Institutions were added to the program, such as the Binet House and Northern Lights Center. However, they were not considered eligible for operational funding as museums. The disconnect became an issue discussed by the Legislative Assembly (source).  

The institutions (and two more) then became eligible for museum operational funding in 2003/2004.

In short, museum funding expanded to include new institutions, in part, because these institutions were already included in the passport program (a tourism marketing initiative). The inclusion in a marketing program for museums challenged their exclusion from museum operational funding, highlighting the significant role of tourism objectives in Yukon’s approach to museum funding.

Here are some additional examples that show the explicit connection made (by government, consultants and the museum association) between funding for museum operations and tourism:

Tourism Policy Concerns

Since tourism is a dominant rationale underlining operational (and marketing) support to Yukon community museums, the arguments about territorial support for tourism are also relevant.

Importantly, a vibrant and prosperous tourism industry is not the end goal in government action relating to tourism. Instead, government contributions to tourism and the subsequent development of a tourism industry are explicitly positioned as contributing to Yukoners’ quality of life.

The connection between a prosperous industry and quality of life is made most explicit in the positioning of both the Yukon Tourism Action Plan (1988) and Museums Policy (1990) as part of “Yukon 2000: Building the Future.” Yukon 2000 identified Yukoners’ shared values (self-reliance, a mix of economic activity, community empowerment, equality, and a clean environment), which then informed new goals to guide policies broadly:

  • The option to stay in the Yukon
  • Control of the future
  • An acceptable quality of life
  • Equality

These goals led to new policies, including an encompassing economic policy. The Yukon Economic Policy (1988) committed to continuing support for museums within the section on cultural industries, noting culture is an:

important element in the quality of life that attracts  workers and visitors to our communities.

YUKON 1988, 38

Museums are also mentioned in the section on tourism, which articulates a commitment to supporting the industry in ways that give:

greater control and benefits from tourism to Yukoners.

YUKON 1988, 54

Government action relating to museums and tourism thus became part of the broader economic policy to develop a more sustainable economy and meet Yukon 2000’s goals. 

These goals continue to be evident in the more recent Yukon Tourism Development Strategy (2018), which emphasizes sustainable development and the connection with all Yukoners in addition to the sectors’ economic contributions. A thriving sector benefits all Yukoners because the goal focuses on growth in order to support stable and year-round employment.

In short, museum policy is a tourism policy. Tourism policy is an economic policy. However, the goal is not to have a thriving tourism sector to make businesses happy. Instead, economic policy aims to increase Yukoner’s quality of life by providing jobs and the option to stay in Yukon. 

Some Nuance

As stated above, support for community museums can be rationalized in multiple ways. While there is an emphasis on tourism in Yukon, there is also some variation over time, within different contexts, and across actors. For example, the Museum Policy (1990) mentions multiple benefits of museums – they form a social foundation for building a future, improve cross-cultural communication, encourage newcomers to stay in the Yukon, and (of course) tourism with related benefits to the local economy. 

Of particular significance, I plan to explore the rationale underlining Yukon’s support for conservation and other collections work, which is not well connected to an economic or tourism argument. I suspect the focus relates to the availability of funding through the federal government for these activities. However, there is also a discursive difference in arguments for the program:

It is clear that the heritage of a local area is precisely what interests the tourist and it is the signs and flavour of the visible past that compensates the tourist for his expenditures. But the heritage of a people is primarily a cultural business and we attempt to preserve, record and restore evidence of the past mainly that we should know who we are and what we are doing.

YHMA 1984, 3-4

Questions

What do you think of my argument? Are you convinced?

Is tourism the dominant rationale for operational funding to community museums in Yukon?

What rationale(s) do you find most prominent in your jurisdiction of interest?

Sources (that were not hyperlinked)

For most quotes, I provided a hyperlink. The resources below are not currently available online.

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

Kyte, John E. 1980, November. Museums in Yukon: A Profile and Training Report. Prepared for Yukon Historical and Museums Association. 

Tourism, Heritage, and Cultural Resources. 1983, September. Preserving our Past: Policy Recommendations for the Protection and Management of Yukon’s Heritage Resources. Government of Yukon. 

Yukon Historical and Museums Association. 1984. A Submission to the Government of Yukon Concerning the Proposed New Heritage Legislation. 

Tourism. 1988. Yukon Tourism Action Plan. Yukon Territorial Government.

Reflections: Pre-Interview Foundations

by Robin Nelson

I am getting ready to start interviews for the Dawson City Museum (DCM) Project – yay!

This is my third big interview project. For my MMSt, I interviewed museum professionals about the influence of cultural policy on museum public programming (Nelson 2015). For my PhD, I interviewed Ontario Museum Advisors and people associated with the Ontario museum associations about the evolution of Ontario community museum policy (Nelson 2021). 

For both degrees, I did some research methods courses that covered interviewing. However, I learnt far more from my experiences than I did from the classroom. The most important lesson was the importance of pre-interview research. 

Why is pre-research important?

When I started interviewing, I did not do a lot of preparation work. I wanted to learn from people. Their narratives frame and focus document research, preventing a lot of unnecessary labour. However, some people (understandably – They are giving me their time!) get annoyed when you ask questions that could be easily answered in an archive. Interviews go much better when the participant is not annoyed at you. 

Pre-research has also helped me ask better questions. Within the blog on interview preparation (here), I posted my question guide, which I will use during the DCM project interviews to ask every participant the same basic set of questions. However, my interviews are semi-structured and conversational. As people answer, it is important to be able to understand what they are saying and ask relevant follow up questions. 

For example, during my interviews on Ontario community museum policy, I had questions about the role of each level of government. When I asked about the federal contributions, a few people told me that they don’t access federal programs. However, I already had a basic understanding of the federal support they accessed because I read Canadian Revenue Agency reports (such a useful resource for research on museums that are registered charities), annual reports, and other documents.

Example of a CRA return for a museum, showing the federal line item

Knowing about the federal contributions, I could ask a follow up question – What about _____? Most often, people were forgetting that Young Canada Works, which is administered through the Canadian Museums Association, is a federal program. Asking the follow up question provided participants with the opportunity to highlight the significance of employment programs (or whatever federal support had slipped their mind). Alternatively, it enabled some people to explain why they had not mentioned it (sometimes people defined federal support to community museums as relatively insignificant).

What have I done so far for the DCM Project?

I have done some preliminary work to understand both Yukon Community Museum Policy and the Dawson City Museum’s development. Due to COVID, I have not been able to hang out in the DCM archives (their corporate index is amazing! I am excited to get access… one day) so my research on the Museum is very preliminary. However, I have read everything I could get ahold of on Yukon’s community museum policies, which will help me ask follow up questions to understand the relationship between the Museum’s development and government action. 

Although Yukon has an explicit community museum policy (here), I am not simply referring to policies called community museum policy. Museum policy can refer to government (or related agencies) action or inaction that influence community museums. So, I have considered a broader range of actions that have relevance to the DCM. Once I start interviews, I expect I will learn about more government actions (or inactions) I have not considered or discover that something I think is important now does not actually have a significant effect on the Museum.

As a starting point, I searched for museums in the Yukon Legislative Assembly’s hansard minutes (here).

Screenshot of a Hansard search.
Screenshot of a YLA Hansard Minutes search for “museums”

The search has led me to read about support and regulation for museums, heritage, employment, the economy, and tourism. There are a few documents I am waiting to for access, but I have read tourism, economic, and museum related reports, policies, and programs. I have over a hundred pages of notes, and I would like to share some of my initial impressions!

Reflection Questions

Before I begin the interviews, I am going to document my initial assumptions and conclusions. It will be interesting to see what changes and what areas become emphasized as people (not documents) help shape the narrative in response to the question – How has the Dawson City Museum developed in relation to government and community action?

As a starting point, I am going to answer three questions:

Questions

Are there any other questions that you would like to see reflection on as part of my pre-interview work?

Have you had similar experiences with interviews? Do you have any tips or tricks about conducting a good interview?  

Podcasts: Artful Conversations and Standing By

By Robin Nelson

Teaching resources posts aim to promote and document online resources for learning about museums, cultural policy, and cultural management in what is now known as Canada.

I love podcasts for both learning and “required readings” when teaching. When I began teaching in arts and cultural management, I had (and still have) a lot of learning to do about the different subsectors. As a museum person with a PhD in Public Administration, there is a lot I do not know about areas like performing arts and the music industry.

Two podcasts have been particularly helpful.

Artful Conversations

Artful Conversations is a great podcast produced by my colleagues at MacEwan University. In the episodes, Annetta Latham and Katrina Regan-Ingram talk to leaders in arts and cultural management about current trends.

The podcast website is wonderful and includes transcripts of all the episodes (here).

Standing By

Standing By was a student recommendation and has been a great way to learn about theater in Canada. Maddy Henry (a stage manager) talks to people who work behind the scenes in the theater world in Canada.

I cannot find a website or transcripts, but the episodes are available here.

Questions

How about you? Do you have any podcast suggestions for students and academics in arts and cultural management within what is now known as Canada?

Research: Interviews Part One

Photograph of the Dawson City Museum
Dawson City Museum

by Robin Nelson

The Dawson City Museum Project will be integrated in my teaching for courses in museum management and cultural policy (AGAD 226 and 301). As students become involved in the analysis, I would like them to understand how data was collected. So, there will be a series of posts about research methods. Within this post, I will outline our plans for the interviews and the work that has already been done.

Step one: Ethics approval

Within a university setting, research involving human participants often requires approval from an ethics review board. Information on MacEwan’s rules and protocols are available here.

In order to get approval for my research, I filled out an application with information on interview procedures and the ways potential risks will be mitigated. For example, the Dawson City Museum’s Executive Director, Alex, is involved in the research as a community partner, which presents a possible power imbalance with participants. As such, it is important for all past and current Dawson City Museum employees and volunteers to know their participation (or lack thereof) will have no impact on their relationship with Alex or the Museum.

The consent form is one way that participants will be told their participation is voluntary and will not influence their relationship with the Museum. The form also provides information about the intent of the research and confidentiality. There are multiple questions about the level of confidentiality participants are comfortable with and how they would like their data to be stored or shared, which is another way risk is mitigated. The form is available below.

In addition to the consent form, I prepared a question guide for the interviews and introductory email as part of the ethics review process. These documents are available below.

Fortunately, these documents were okayed and I received ethics approval in May – yay!

Step two: More prep work

I am currently (June 8th) on Step two.

Alex and I have prepared a list of people I should interview based on his experiences as Executive Director and my preliminary research (otherwise known as googling and looking on Linkedin). Based on this list, I will likely do 15-20 interviews from July 2021 to December 2021.

Alex and I are working together to invite these people to participate.

When I did interviews for research on Ontario community museum policy, this step was easy because most people I wanted to talk with had emails publicly available online. Unfortunately (for me), many people in Yukon do not seem to have emails or current places of employment easily accessible through a google search. Due to confidentiality concerns and the ethics review process discussed above, Alex cannot simply give me people’s contact information. So, he has his own invitation letter, which he will send to the people he knows to invite participation and give my information.

We are dividing the list in a spreadsheet and will be sending out those letters (…emails) soon. This part makes me nervous – I hope people want to talk to me!

Step three: Interviews

Step three is what I am most excited about – learning from people!

Due to covid, I cannot go to Dawson City to interview people (unfortunately – I went in 2016 and it was beautiful!). Making things more difficult, Dawson does not always have the best internet connection, which makes zoom interviews improbable. So, I will likely be doing these interviews by phone.

After reviewing the consent form, I will use the question guide to have a conversation with participation, which will be recorded with their consent. In my experience, these interviews usually last an hour and my attention starts to wane after 2 -3. However, I once had an interview last six hours and move to a sandwich place to accommodate our growling stomachs.

There are more steps, including transcription and getting approval for the transcription. However, I will include those in a separate post focusing on all the work that comes after the fun part.

Question / Request for advice

With the participants consent, we will be using the interview recordings for the podcast miniseries commemorating the Dawson City Museum for its 60th anniversary. I have never done this before and am worried about sound quality.

Do you have any suggestions? How would you record the phone conversation?