A museum dedicated to the history of Yellowknife is set to open next year following a $1.2-million cash injection from the federal government.
The Yellowknife Historical Society says it will use the money to improve the former recreation hall at Giant Mine, previously donated to the society, which will be the new museum’s main exhibition hall.
The society says much of the work is already under way as a project first envisaged more than 20 years ago moves toward completion.
“This funding was so, so welcome and needed, and it is going mainly to construction,” Marie Adams, secretary-treasurer of the Yellowknife Historical Society, told Cabin Radio.
“The building was just a shell … Everything inside the building had to be done, with a couple of things outside.”
She said the museum and interpretive centre will have a deck, an accessible ramp, a gift shop featuring local artisans and artists, and a café.
“This project is a culmination of over 20 years of volunteer effort on the part of Yellowknife Historical Society members, in particular Walt Humphries, past president, who first envisioned a community-based museum on this site,” said the society’s president, Helmut Epp, in a press release.
“The Yellowknife Historical Museum will serve to illuminate the rich history of the area and we look forward to sharing these stories with residents and visitors alike.”
The society estimates more than $700,000 has been spent on the building to date.
Yellowknife already hosts the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, a museum dedicated to the Northwest Territories and the broader history of northern Canada.
Adams says the new museum will focus on the Yellowknife region’s history in a way a museum with responsibility for a larger area cannot.
“Just like Hay River has a museum, and Norman Wells has a museum showing off and showcasing the history and the culture and the geology of the area, we will be doing the same,” she said.
“We will showcase the history, the culture, and the geology of the Yellowknife region.”
Outdoor exhibits already exist at the new museum and interpretive centre, and the society hopes to create a space the community can use outside museum hours.
“We hope to provide a diversified tourist economy and a wonderful place for schools, children, the general public and visitors to have an experience and learn about the heritage of the region,” she said.
A site under remediation
The museum will be located at the former Giant Mine site, which is undergoing a lengthy remediation project to help manage and monitor the after-effects of decades of gold mining, including the containment of more than 200,000 tons of toxic arsenic.
In 2019, Natalie Plato, the deputy director of the Giant Mine remediation project, told the CBC remediation would not affect the society’s project and cleanup staff would “work around the museum.”
In the same report, the society said there was no arsenic contamination concern at the building set to house the museum.
Adams said the museum is on track to open by April 1, 2023, a deadline provided by the GNWT, which has also funded the project. She said the society is “working very, very hard” to have the museum ready by that time.