Finding Yukon Indigenous artifacts, one museum at a time
Decades-old project has compiled a massive database of Yukon Indigenous artifacts held around the world
After years of online sleuthing and searching museum collections around the world, Yukon researchers are getting closer to opening a unique database to the public.
For 32 years, the territorial government has been tracking and finding where historic Yukon Indigenous artifacts are being held. Researchers have been collecting data and searching photographs from natural history collections all over the world.
Last year alone, the "Searching For Our Heritage" project was able to track down and identify 800 Yukon artifacts, and add photographs and information records to the growing database.
The main goal of the project is to find items that are older than 45 years. Some artifacts date back to the mid-1800s, and were collected by early Hudson Bay traders, missionaries, scientists, whaling captains, and gold seekers.
Brian Groves, manager of museums for the Yukon government, says a lot of Yukon history has been uncovered over the project's 32 years.
"Right now there are 93 institutions that have partnered on the project, and over 3,600 artifacts that have been located."
The objects themselves stay in the various museum collections. The project is focused solely on creating an online record of where Yukon cultural artifacts are held.
Tunics, moccasins and knives
"There is a lot of clothing. There is a variety of tunics, and mitts, slippers, moccasins — things along those lines — in the database," Groves said.
"A huge variety of tools as well, so, knives and different implements that were used — all things along those lines."
Groves says most of the artifacts were collected ethically and legally by museums, from early explorers and tourists. That makes most of them "not eligible" for repatriation to Yukon, he said.
Right now, the Searching for Our Heritage database is used by Yukon First Nation heritage centres. It is not freely accessible to the public, though, because of copyrights held by the various museums.
The Yukon government is working to change that, so the records are available for everyone to see.
Groves also hopes at least some artifacts will ultimately be repatriated back to Yukon First Nations, to be given to their heritage centres.