Celebrating and preserving Yukon’s heritage and culture

Elaine Taylor, MLA for Whitehorse WestAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, February 12, 2016
by Elaine Taylor, Minister of Tourism and Culture

This past week I was pleased to make two announcements in support of Yukon heritage and culture.

On February 4th, I was happy to announce that the Yukon government is moving ahead with plans to increase storage space at the Yukon Archives, to enable the continued collection and preservation of Yukon’s valuable historic legacy.

The Archives houses an irreplaceable collection of materials that are unique to Yukon’s history and culture. It includes government records dating back to 1896, more than 150,000 photographs, corporate records, private manuscripts, maps, plans, newspapers and more. Many of the older items are fragile or unstable, and require special storage and handling.

Keeping the collection safe for years to come is essential. This is why the Yukon government is committing $6.3 million in 2016/17 – subject to legislative approval – to increase the Archives’ storage capacity from its current 1,000 square meters, to approximately 1,550 square meters.

The new storage space will include increased storage for paper records, a separate cold storage for unstable materials such as films and negatives, and a separate vault for digital records. The project will also improve the Archives’ energy efficiency, and will extend the functional life of the existing storage areas.

Construction of the new storage space will be managed by the Department of Highways and Public Works. Work is scheduled to begin this summer and is anticipated to be completed in 2017.

Two days ago, I was joined by Premier Pasloski at the MacBride Museum, where we made a funding announcement of $450,000 for the engineering, architectural design, site preparation and planning for a new expansion to the museum.

The MacBride Museum first opened its doors back in 1952 – for sixty-four years now it has been preserving and presenting Yukon’s history to visitors and residents alike.
Back then, the museum’s entire collection was housed in the government Telegraph Office, which was built in 1900 and still stands in its original location.

The MacBride cares for more than 30,000 important photographs, documents and other historic objects. Like all of our museums and cultural centres, it plays a significant role in Yukon’s social fabric, gives us a sense of our roots and contributes to our identity as Yukoners.

A 3,000 square foot expansion to the museum was completed in 2007. Despite this, only a fraction of the museum’s collection can be displayed at any time, and that collection continues to grow.

Though it has served Yukoners well for many years, the museum is, quite simply, full. The MacBride has many more stories it could tell, if only it had the space to do so. It needs room for new exhibitions, travelling shows, and safe artefact storage.

For this reason, our government is very pleased to make this investment that will not only assist the museum in moving the project forward but will also leave a lasting heritage legacy for Yukoners and for all Canadians.

Museums and First Nations cultural centres play a key role in preserving, interpreting and promoting Yukon’s rich heritage. They are also among the most popular visitor attractions in Yukon, welcoming more than 125,000 visitors every year, contributing to a strong economy.

Over the years, we have seen tremendous growth in the heritage community including the number of museums and cultural centres there are in the territory. Back in 2002, the Yukon government provided core funding to nine museums and cultural centres. We now provide funding to 18.

I am very proud to say that in the coming fiscal year, the overall budget supporting museums and cultural centers has grown by more than 300 per cent since 2002. In 2016/17, our museum funding will total $1.86 million, 20 per cent more than in 2013/14.

Our government is a proud partner and our ongoing commitment will help these institutions continue to safeguard and interpret our heritage, and to share it with the world.