The rich history of Yellowknife is worth saving, documenting and displaying. However, there is currently no such place dedicated to showcasing this story. The Yellowknife Historical Society is constructing a unique community-driven museum. When completed, this museum will:
- Be a vibrant, one of a kind, tourist attraction for the Northwest Territories.
- Become a focal point for the social, industrial, and geologic heritage of Yellowknife and region.
- Contribute to opportunities for other spin-off businesses associated with the adjacent lake and boating facilities.
- Boost NWT tourism by attracting a new market of tourists.
- Increase business to local hotels, restaurants, retail stores, gas stations, campgrounds, gift shops, etc.
The Society is seeking to engage a wide variety of patrons including researchers, rock hounds, historians, and tourism operators. In order to make this a reality, the Society is calling for monetary support.
Renovation of the former Giant Mine recreation hall into the main exhibit hall for a Yellowknife community museum is the Society's primary objective. In 2000, the Society began looking for a suitable location to display and exhibit the history of mining in Yellowknife and the NWT. It became apparent that the Giant Mine area would be a well-suited site. A building assessment of several structures at Giant Mine townsite/A-shaft area was conducted to provide the Society with an idea of cost estimates to restore some of the buildings for future public interpretive use. The Society eventually focused on the former Giant Mine recreation hall as the most suitable and structurally sound building. The recreation hall was built in 1953 as a centre of after-shift recreation for staff and workers living at the Giant Mine townsite. The building received numerous renovations and additions into the mid 1960s.
The Giant Mine townsite area were selected as the proposed museum for a number of reasons:
- The recreation hall is in good structural condition and would provide the necessary space needed for an interpretive centre.
- The overall area has plenty of outdoor space for parking and displays of mining machinery. There is also space to include other heritage buildings.
- The area is central for recreation possibilities being located on a City of Yellowknife lease where there is a public boat launch and private marina.
- The area is scenic and borders Baker Creek, a popular catch and release fishing spot.
- Unique, world-class geology
Engineering, feasibility, architectural, and hazardous material studies have been conducted on the building since 2002. These include:
- "Building Inspection and Report, Giant Mines A-Shaft Buildings, Recreation Hall" by Structure All Consulting Engineers Ltd., May 2002
- "Giant Mine Rec. Hall Building Renovation, Yellowknife NT, Proposal for Design & Construction Drawings" by Guy Architects, June 2006, including roof drawings
- "Hazardous Material Inventory, Giant Mine Rec Hall, Yellowknife NT" by A.D. Williams Engineering Inc., October 2006
In the Business Plan, the Society has identified short and mid-to-long term goals. Short terms goals will focus on the renovation of the Giant Mine recreation hall into the primary museum and interpretive centre. This facility will include a small Coffee Shop, Gift Shop, archives, and large exhibit hall. There will be indoor and outdoor displays and a landscaped parking lot. Mid-to-long term goals will focus on development of outdoor exhibits in the entire area and developing walking trails for geological tours.
In the summer of 2007, the Society raised $120,000 to replace the roof of the recreation hall. The Society applied for a sub-lease of the property on which the recreation hall sits from the City of Yellowknife, which owns the primary Giant Mine townsite lease, #17889. The lease was officially signed in October 2010. During 2010, the Society fixed the crumbling foundation of one wall of the building at a cost of $40,000, and more repairs to the foundation were completed in 2012-2013. Solar panels were installed in 2017-2018 and the building connected to the city power grid. In 2018, work was completed on the exterior of the building with the removal of hazardous waste, repairs of exterior walls, and installation of new siding, doors, and windows. Work beyond 2019 will be focused on the interior of the building to install electrical and mechanical services.
Total estimated cost to renovate the Giant Mine recreation hall is $1.5 million. To design and construct exhibits would run another $100,000 to $150,000. To date (2022), over $1,000,000 has been spent on the project.
Development of outdoor exhibits has been a primary objective of the Yellowknife Historical Society. It promotes historical displays to celebrate Yellowknife and mining history throughout town but focuses its efforts on the maintenance of old mining equipment at the Giant Mine townsite.
A work in progress since 2005, the outdoor display at the Giant Mine townsite continues to evolve. This area has become a tourist magnet and is a popular picnic spot in the summer months. The display surrounds the edge of the public boat launch parking lot near the entrance to the mine townsite. It includes an old log cabin from Con Mine (built in 1938 to store explosives), the Brock-shaft headframe (built 1939 at Giant Mine), Giant Mine’s old fire truck, an Alligator amphibious tank used in WWII, a winch from Weaver & Devore trading, old boilers, a large bulldozer from Tundra Mine, and a 150-foot long rail track with a variety of underground mining equipment.
The log cabin area is a great picnic area and the society has installed several permanent picnic tables. An incredible amount of volunteer effort has gone into constructing, landscaping, and maintaining this area for public enjoyment.
The Society has also been involved in the construction and maintenance of other old mining displays around Yellowknife, including the outdoor and indoor displays at the Yellowknife Airport, the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre, Fred Henne Territorial Park, and City Hall.
The Yellowknife Historical Society aims to preserve all aspects of community history, including but not limited to: the story of prospecting and industrial mining of gold, local town development and pioneer businesses, regional geology, and the story of early fur trading and Indigenous culture. Collections relating to these stories are held in trust for public benefit, under the stewardship of the Society’s Board of Directors. To build a museum we need artifacts, memorabilia, photographs, and archival documents to add to our collection. We actively pursue old collections from Yellowknife history or the NWT's mining past.
The Society has developed a ‘Collections Policy’ to guide its objectives. The Collections Policy outlines the standards and guidelines that govern the acquisition, care, use and disposal of the society’s collections. It also defines the scope and extent of the society’s collecting activity and provides for the orderly development of its collections, to enable the society to achieve its stated goals. The Collections Policy is periodically reviewed by the Board and updated to accommodate changes in the society’s mandate.
A Collections Committee is a standing committee of the Board which oversees the collections or curatorial activities of the society and future museum. Its management authority includes the appraisal, acquisition, storage, care and maintenance, and disposal of collections. The Society also pursues acquisition of photographs and memorabilia from private collections around the country.
The proposed community museum will include a wide array of unique northern geology and mineral samples. We are actively collecting rocks from different mines, mineral showings, and geologic environments.
The geology of the north is spectacular and world class. As part of its long-term goals in establishing a museum, the society aims to promote the north's diverse mineral and geological environment through educational displays. This will include an exhibit showing the geological evolution of the Canadian Shield - the oldest part of North America - and how mineral deposits - such as gold, diamonds, and lead/zinc - were formed by Earth's natural processes.
Our geologic treasures are wonderful and educational. Did you know that some of the oldest known rocks in the world can be found in the NWT? Did you know that the earliest evidence for multi-celled life has been discovered in the NWT? Did you know that uranium ores can be used to generate nuclear power? There will be an opportunity to learn about the history of the Earth as future visitors navigate through displays of rocks and minerals.