Collecting and Sharing Yukon & Alaska History

The subject of Northern history shows up a fair bit on this blog, and a lot on my main Web site (ExploreNorth), but I’ve never really shown you what my passion for history looks like at home. With the weather not being very conducive to outside activities, I’m spending a lot of time with my collection lately.

Getting down to start a review of what’s here, a few days ago. For space reasons, it’s now mostly paper (most of the actual artifacts have been donated to 2 Yukon museums), but the thousands of pieces of paper range from photographs and brochures to books and official documents. Anything that relates to the Yukon, Alaska or Arctic has been the broad focus since my serious collecting started 17 years ago.
Murray sorting through his historic papers
One of the subjects that I have a lot of material from is the Yukon Quest sled dog race. This racer’s bib from the 1993 race is the prize in that category.
1993 Yukon Quest racer's bib
If there’s a subject that I just never tire of, it’s early transportation. In the past few days, I’ve put this entire 24-page guide to the Richardson and Steese Highways from 1931 online – you can see it here.
The Richardson and Steese Highways in 1931
I come across some surprising material in my searches. Until the mid-1970s, the U.S. Highway 287 Association promoted U.S. Route 287 as the best tourist route to Alaska. That, too, is now online (though only partly, because it’s size is impossible for me to deal with effectively), here.
In 1985, during the celebration of the National Parks of Canada Centennial, the Klondike Heritage Mail Run carried special envelopes between Seattle and Dawson City via the Chilkoot Pass, and they received special cancellations at several points. As of yesterday, you can see that story here.
And finally, one piece from much further back in the collection – a 1905 grant to allow a Dawson-area placer gold miner to divert water to a group of claims on Trail Gulch.

The two oldest documents in the collection are a 20-page summary/review of a 2-volume history of Greenland, published in The Annual Review of 1793, and an order to ships from the British Admiralty in 1836 (may be signed by John Barrow, who went on to be in charge of all Arctic expeditions). [A hi-res pdf copy of the 1793 review (148MB) can now be seen at my public Dropbox folder.]

I have months and months worth of work/pleasure in the basement yet – enough for several winters 🙂 Much of it will end up on ExploreNorth, some of it on the Facebook pages of several groups I belong to, and some of it on eBay as I pare the collection down to a more manageable size.


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