Klondike Sun donates film photo archive to Dawson City museum

Dawson City’s museum received a slice of community life Aug. 7, when it accepted a donation of nearly 100,000 photographs from the Klondike Sun newspaper.

Dawson City’s museum received a slice of community life Aug. 7, when it accepted a donation of nearly 100,000 photographs from the Klondike Sun newspaper.

The photographs represent everything that was chronicled by the community newspaper from its founding in 1989, until it converted to digital photography around 2000.

“I went digital in 1999,” said Dan Davidson, the paper’s editor and co-founder. “It didn’t take long to realize that we could save six to seven hours on a production weekend by going digital.”

Digitization marked the end of the era of mixing chemicals and working in the darkroom for hours producing the half-tone prints required for the monthly, then later, bi-weekly editions of the Sun.

Alex Somerville, director of the Dawson Museum said the collection represents history that is not yet viewed as history, but will come to be seen as a graphic record of community life in 40 or 50 years.

Kathy Jones-Gates, who co-founded and edited the newspaper with Davidson in the early days, said the photographs capture practically every event in Dawson City for more than a decade. She said it was crucial for this record to remain in Dawson City, where it was most relevant.

Commissioner’s balls, spring break-up, music festivals, even births and children’s birthdays were among the events captured by the team of volunteers who worked to document everyday life in the community for 10 years.

Dawson City has never been without a newspaper. During the early years when the gold rush town had a large population, as many as three newspapers (the Dawson Daily News, the Yukon World and the Yukon Sun) were publishing simultaneously. That was reduced to one after 1909.

The Dawson News finally closed its doors in 1954, after Yukon’s capital moved to Whitehorse, but an active group of women called “The Nutty Club,” continued to produce a bi-weekly mimeographed newsletter called the Klondike Korner, until Davidson and Jones-Gates realized that it was possible to produce a regular newspaper again. In 1989 the Klondike Sun was born and continues to document events in Dawson City nearly 30 years later.

Michael Gates is a Yukon historian and sometimes adventurer based in Whitehorse. He is currently writing as book on the Yukon in World War I. You can contact him at msgates@northwestel.net

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