GNWT to review how Prince of Wales museum earns money

The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre across Frame Lake. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio

The NWT government is embarking on a review of how Yellowknife’s Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, the territory’s museum, brings in revenue.

At the moment, visits to the museum for members of the public are free of charge. The museum’s auditorium and café can be rented – at least, when there isn’t a pandemic – for a small fee, and visitors to the museum can make donations if they like, but there are otherwise few revenue sources.

A study to be carried out over the next year will examine ways the museum could raise more money.

In a request for proposals issued earlier this month, the territorial government seeks a contractor to look at everything from opening a gift shop to doing a better job of attracting corporate philanthropy.



One of the main lines of inquiry, though, will be whether to start charging an admission fee – something considered in the past but so far not introduced.

There is no firm plan to introduce admission fees, but the chosen contractor will be asked to gauge whether doing so is worthwhile.

The request for proposals notes that the benefits of charging admission must be weighed against the cost of introducing that change, such as putting gates and barriers in place, buying software, hiring staff to manage the system – and the potential loss of visitors who don’t want to come if a fee is charged.

“The contractor will engage with various types of regular users of the PWNHC,” the GNWT document states, using an acronym for the museum, “to gain insight as to public support or opposition to creating or expanding revenue sources.”



At the moment, between $10,000 and $11,000 annually is donated by the more than 60,000 people who visit the museum in a non-pandemic year. That money goes toward educational programming.

Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson has suggested that admission remain free for NWT residents but be charged to tourists from elsewhere in the world once travel resumes.

The revenue study follows debate last year in the legislature about the museum’s future – including its name.

While the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) opened the museum in 1979, his connection to the heritage of the North is broadly considered tenuous at best. In March last year, several MLAs suggested the museum be renamed. Officials have said doing so relies on following the correct protocol, essentially so as not to upset the Royal Family.

“One of the things we have wanted to look into is whether a name change for the facility would trigger any issues with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales from a protocol perspective,” assistant deputy minister John MacDonald told MLAs last year.