Archives uncovers buried treasures

Skookum Jim and George Carmacks won't be prominent in Archival Gold: Favourites from the Vault, but Bugs Bunny, paperclips, and a backpack made from a pair of pants and a duffle bag will be.

Skookum Jim and George Carmacks won’t be prominent in Archival Gold: Favourites from the Vault, but Bugs Bunny, paperclips, and a backpack made from a pair of pants and a duffle bag will be.

The exhibit, co-hosted by the Yukon Archives and Friends of the Yukon Archives Society, includes images from six different collections in the archives. Work began on the exhibit in April. More than 100 items were digitized for it, said Carolyn Harris, a government archivist at the archives. Selected items were then placed on murals, one for each collection.

“It was really about, you know, what are the treasures, what are the surprises we have,” said Harris.

Staff were asked to pick their favourite pieces from the different collections, and some of those will also be on display. That’s how the shadowbox of various paperclips found throughout the years made its way into the exhibit.

The same goes for the Bugs Bunny comic book, and the backpack. It was made based on drawings by Alan Innes-Taylor, a Yukon resident who went on Arctic expeditions and taught about his experiences. His collection included directions about how to make a backpack out of a duffle bag and pants.

One of the staff decided to follow his directions. “It works though. It’s been modelled,” said Harris, laughing.

Harris’ personal favourite came from the estates’ collection. It’s a scrap of paper one wouldn’t expect to find in government records.


“It just says, ‘Notice’ at the top. And it talks about how he’s weak and he doesn’t know how much longer he has. The darkness is coming on and his heart is weak. And then it kind of trails off, and it’s written in this weak handwriting. Just absolutely moving. And you come across this random note in the file, and you see that it’s, you know, the remaining trace of this person. It’s maybe the only thing left of him and his life here.”

Highlighting ordinary parts of Yukon history is one of the main goals of the exhibit. Prominent parts of the territory’s history, like the White Pass railroad will be featured. There’s photos taken by Rev. Donald C. Amos who travelled the Alaska Highway serving the men and women who built it. Personal diaries show how prominent events shaped individuals. And the archives boasts the earliest depiction of Alaska on a map. The oldest item in the collection, a piece from 1735, details Vitus Bering’s 1728 voyage through the Bering Strait.

But then there are more common things, “traces of ordinary individuals,” said Harris.

Home videos a dentist in Dawson made in the 1920s and ‘30 will be included. There’s meeting minutes and correspondence from the beginning of the Yukon Women’s Christian Association.

Photographs from the John Hamilton collection will also be displayed. Hamilton came to the Yukon looking for the father he never knew. In the 1930s, he worked as a deckhand on a sternwheeler for White Pass & Yukon Railroad. The original photos are creased and worn from when he would show them to his daughter.

“It really gives you glimpses of the social history, the economic history, and even political, a little, too, with government activities and how the government worked,” said Harris.

Material at the archives may also help individuals better understand their own histories. Many people use the archives for genealogical research, she said. A wide range of resources can help people discover their family histories. There’s even a list that a Dawson City postal worker, Benjamin Craig, kept of when and where people died. At the time, it helped him deliver mail. Now, it can be a valuable tool for research.

The archives, located next to Yukon College, is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday. People are welcome to visit or start their research online at

This exhibit opens on Nov. 2 at Arts Underground in the lower level of the Hougen Centre. It begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be provided and Minister Scott Kent will be speaking. Archival Gold will be on display until Jan. 26.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, pictured at a press conference in October, announced three new cases of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 as well as a new public exposure notice. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New COVID-19 cases, public exposure notice announced

The new cases have all been linked to previous cases

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read