Mining the Miners

24 June 2016 – 18 January 2018

This temporary exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History, Mining the Miners, gave visitors another side of the Klondike gold rush: the outrageous prices and the enormous profits of a roaring boomtown economy. Among the opportunists, entrepreneurs and prospectors, visitors could see who really made the money in the last great gold rush. As well, they were able to check out a variety of artifacts from our collection that are unique to the Klondike and to Dawson City’s heyday.

Klondike gold! It wasn’t all mined with picks and shovels.

In 1897 and 1898, tens of thousands of men and women toiled up the mountain passes and down the Yukon River to Dawson City with only one thing on their minds: gold. But not all of them were miners.

The Bank of Canada Museum presented Mining the Miners, an exhibition about a booming economy of sky-high prices and staggering profits, broken dreams and some very unorthodox banking. Presented in a beautifully detailed diorama of original Dawson buildings, the exhibition explained how the profits were really made in this wild and woolly frontier metropolis. Along the way, visitors could see some bank notes specific to the gold rush, tokens good for a variety of human vices and, of course, a real nugget of the stuff dreams are made of.

Photo Gallery

diorama of frontier buildings

Archival images of real period buildings were used as the basis for these beautifully executed models.

model building with front opening like doors

Surprise! The buildings opened at the touch of a button to reveal the exhibition’s written content.

coins and tokens beneath diorama

Beneath the diorama’s “street” were the artifacts. Here we see some tokens from old Dawson and a cheque.

frontier building model

The Monte Carlo was an original Klondike saloon that still exists today but in a different building. Dawson was victim to several fires in its heyday.

frontier building model opened to reveal museum text

Behind the Monte Carlo facade was the crazy story of the cost of living during the Klondike gold rush.

frontier building model

The Bank of British North America: the first bank on the Klondike scene but never as successful as the Canadian Bank of Commerce.

gold nugget and bank notes below diorama

A real gold nugget, of course, and bank notes custom-stamped for use in gold rush Dawson City.

diorama of frontier buildings

The “Opera House” was a faithful reproduction of the original building, which still functions today as the Palace Grand Theatre.

exhibition window with diorama of frontier street

When the Canadian Bank of Commerce (known today as CIBC) built their first Dawson branch in 1898, it really was a two-storey log building.

model of log building

It was worth a moment to look closely at the wonderful details of this diorama. This model was actually based on the Yukon Hotel.

exhibition window with diorama of frontier street

The buttons to open the doors were in miniature gold pans, and the outside panels presented to visitors the adventure of banking in the Klondike.

30 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON