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Newsletter - November 2017



The NWT Mining Heritage Society is now the Yellowknife Historical Society, made official with the passing of a motion put forth by the Board of Directors at the October 2017 annual general meeting.

Walt Humphries, the president of the Society said: “Our Society was formed when Giant Mine suddenly shut down in 1999 so that we could save, preserve and display the mining equipment and memorabilia that would otherwise be lost. We extended this to Con mine and to other mines in the NWT that were being cleaned up by the Federal Government. That part of our mandate has been fulfilled.”

“The history of Yellowknife and the mines are completely intertwined and since there is no Yellowknife Historical Society or community-driven museum we have also taken on that role as well and want our new name to better reflect this as we move forward with our museum.”

The Yellowknife Historical Society will continue to renovate the Giant Mine recreation hall in order to display the community’s history and is also looking for ideas of other ways to celebrate Yellowknife’s history.

The rebranded Society will embark on a new campaign to solicit support from local businesses, government funding sources, and community members who have an interest in preserving and promoting Yellowknife’s rich history. The website has been updated and a new logo will be designed this winter.

Board members are Walt Humphries (president), Helmut Epp (vice president), Ryan Silke (secretary-treasurer), Mike Vaydik, Diane Baldwin, David Finch, John Clark, and Terry Warner. Tracey Bryant is paid coordinator.


The Board of Directors will participate in a branding exercise this winter to refocus its efforts on soliciting public support for a community-driven museum for Yellowknife. We envision this as a place that celebrates all aspects of Yellowknife's interesting history, from its Indigenous stories, geological setting, prospecting, the industrial activities of the gold mines, and the pioneer entrepreneurs that began the town in the 1930s. The Museum would still be known as the “Mining Museum” because with all the outdoor mining equipment around it, that is how people will refer to it. Inside we will be displaying mining and Yellowknife history and that should broaden its appeal and increase the number of visitors.

We had an active year as a society with the Beer Barge event and a couple tours of the site. We had a company called Solvest install a bank of solar cells on the roof of the museum and just completed this in September. We got a grant from the government to cover half the $25,000 cost of these solar cells. In time, we may get another row of panels installed. These panels should pay for themselves in 5-10 years. They will help make our operation green, energy responsible and reduce our operating costs. We are currently working to get an electrical hook up to the site from NWT Power Corporation, who work very slowly and on their own time line. Having power to the site will speed up our renovation work.

Work on the removal of the asbestos siding on the museum building has been delayed, although the new siding has been delivered and other materials are on site ready for the necessary construction of new exterior walls. 


The Society remembers two elders and long-standing supporters of our activities, who passed away this year: Joy Watt and Jean Piro.

Joy and Erik Watt moved to Yellowknife in 1976 and both were involved in newspapers and publishing. They both loved dogs, their cabin at Reid Lake and did a lot of volunteer work. Erik was the founder of SPIRIT YK which eventually morphed into this Society. After Joy retired from Outcrop and Erik had passed away, Joy was the consummate volunteer. She ran Stanton Hospital Auxiliary Society including the gift shop. She did work for the NWT SPCA, The Heart and Stroke fund and many other charities. She helped our society in a number of ways but especially when it came to the costumes for the Beer Barge, which she organized every year. She also won the best costume several times.

Jean Piro moved to Yellowknife in 1947 and two years later married Mike Piro. They had four children Gordon, Brian, Lorie, and Sandra. Mike Piro was a founding member of Spirit YK. Jean belonged to our Society and was an active member. She was our Golden Girl in 2009 during Yellowknife’s 75th anniversary. She was big on sports and helping people in town. She belonged to and helped out numerous organizations including The Float Plane Association, Daughters of the Midnight Sun and Rotary Club. So, both Joy Watt and Jean Piro will be missed by our Society and by all of Yellowknife because they were very active citizens and volunteers.

As a Historical Society it is important that we record history so one suggestion from the Board is that we start a book with a picture and bio of all those who have helped our Society in a major way. Hopefully we will be able to have a founders and supporters wall in the museum.


We exhibited at the 2017 Geoscience Forum, November 14 to 16, at the Multiplex facility, selling our usual merchandise and running a slideshow of photos from Yellowknife's past. We were handing out cigarette butt containers to help reduce this element of waste in the community. Thanks to Robert Carroll for a surprise donation of $300 that he made selling gold nuggets at the Forum! Robert is a long-time prospector and supporter of the Society's activities.