I’ve visited the MacBride museum twice, first in the late 1990s and again 20 years later. The museum had changed a lot. The building that houses it had expanded significantly (growing some 15,000 square feet) and its collection and display space have also grown.
The MacBride Museum has been collecting and documenting the Yukon’s history for almost 70 years. The Museum was founded by the Yukon Historical Society and later named for W.D. MacBride. Mr. MacBride was born in Montana, was orphaned as a child, and moved to Alaska in 1912. A few years later he relocated to Whitehorse where he lived, married, raised a family, and worked for almost 50 years as an employee of the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad. Mr. MacBride was a collector and historian, and his archives and memorabilia formed the nidus of the Museum’s collection.
The MacBride Museum opened in 1952, making it the territory’s oldest Museum. It has more than 40,000 objects in its collection (including artefacts, photographs, documents and such). The collection is varied and contained in several distinctive exhibit spaces. Some of these include:
First Nations Gallery
There are fourteen native tribes in the Yukon and this gallery explores their history, and some of their beautiful handicrafts.
The Wild World
This gallery is largely an exhibit of taxidermized animals you might see in the Yukon. The rarest specimen is an albino moose, the likes of which I’ve never seen. There are thirty-five species you can study, and samples of fur you can touch.
Sam McGee’s Cabin
The writings of poet Robert Service — the “Bard of the North” — helped made the Yukon famous. One of his best known poems is “The Cremation of Sam McGee“. The MacBride museum has the original Sam McGee cabin.
The Klondike Gold Rush
This gallery tells the story of the Klondike Gold Rush and how the discovery of gold nuggets in a small creek totally changed the future direction of the Yukon Territory. The exhibits here are quite extensive, including the history of the goldrush and the birth of Whitehorse. A mock-up of Whitehorse’s most famous store and some of the supplies it might have sold during the goldrush.
During World War Two the United States government saw the need to build a roadway connecting the lower 48 states to Alaska (because of concern caused by Japanese submarine activity off Alaska’s coast). A massive amount of money was invested in building the Alaska-Canada (ALCAN) Highway, which remains an important route for tourist access to Alaska.
Besides its exhibit spaces, the Museum is also a place for community gatherings. Special features are presented; for example, when I visited films on the early mountaineering of nearby Kluane National Park were running (and was quite interesting to watch). Lectures and other special events are held here.
There is a nice gift shop with a broad selection of Yukon related books and crafts available. Gold-panning is featured during the summer month (give it a try — its harder than it looks).
It’s not the fanciest museum I’ve ever seen, but the MacBride does a nice job chronicalling the history of the north.
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