Cold vault included in Yukon Archives $6M expansion

Expansion allows for preservation of records related to residential schools and the Yukon Gold Rush.

New secure vault includes refrigerated section for fragile material kept at -22 C

Names are pencilled into a Christmas photo from the Whitehorse Baptist Mission School, year unknown. The Yukon Archives opened a new wing on Monday which will provide long-term protection to old records, photos, historic maps and other documents. (Yukon Archives)

The Yukon Archives opened a new wing on Monday which will provide long-term protection to old records, photos, historic maps and other documents.

Part of the vault will be kept at a chilly –22 C.

This will help keep fragile material such as fading photographs in chemical stasis until archivists can either scan or treat the materials to prevent them from deteriorating further.

The new space is welcomed by territorial archivist David Schlosser.

"Because of the nature of the Yukon Gold Rush, a lot of our materials here originate from that period of 1896 to 1900," he said.

"We do have some other records that go back into the 1890s."

The expansion represents an investment of more than $6 million from the territorial government. 

A photo in the Yukon Archives collection, which first opened in 1972. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Residential school records preserved

According to government records archivist Vanessa Thorson, municipal, federal and territorial materials are already waiting to move in. She said the collection measured in hundreds of metres of shelving.

"We've got about 389 boxes that are supposed to come this week," she said.

The archive includes documentation of Yukon's history of residential schools. This includes newspaper articles about the schools and photos of students taken over holidays and other occasions.

Thorson said over the years, archivists have worked to update the collection with names.

Territorial archivist David Schlosser is dwarfed by the massive new shelving which will hold government records of all kinds. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"When I first came here, there were the residential school payouts and there were lot of people looking for their records," she said. "The things we had here helped people prove they had gone to a residential school and that's really important."

The new space is also designed to keep material safe during emergencies.

"When the door closes, it's sealed," said Thorson. "There are drains in the floor if there was ever a flood and [the floor] slopes away from where the records are held. There's no way for pests to really live there. The humidity and the temperature is great."

The new archive will also provide space for digital storage, because video on formats such as VHS tend to break down with age.

The Yukon Archives first opened in 1972 in a different building. This expansion is the first since the current building opened in 1990 at Yukon College.


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