Trove of Klondike Gold Rush artifacts donated to UBC

·3 min read
Some of the thousands of Klondike Gold Rush-era photographs recently donated to the University of British Columbia by collector Phil Lind. (UBC Library - image credit)
Some of the thousands of Klondike Gold Rush-era photographs recently donated to the University of British Columbia by collector Phil Lind. (UBC Library - image credit)

You could call it the motherlode of Klondike Gold Rush artifacts.

It's a massive trove of historic books, letters, journals and other objects, amassed over the years by a moneyed collector and now donated to the University of British Columbia (UBC).

"It's an extraordinary collection. There's nothing like it, because of its size, and the kind of material it covers, and also the years that it covers," said UBC librarian Susan Parker.

"There's thousands of different kinds of things — everything from photographs, to letters that people wrote home, you know, just an incredible array."

Most of the material dates from the years between 1894 and 1904, when Dawson City, Yukon, was transformed almost overnight from a small dot on the map to, for a time, the biggest Canadian city west of Winnipeg.

The collection was built over decades by Order of Canada member Phil Lind, who's the former right-hand man to the late telecommunications tycoon Ted Rogers, founder of Rogers Communications.

Lind's fascination with the Klondike Gold Rush is personal — his grandfather was a prospector in Yukon and Alaska even before the famous discovery was made that sparked the rush. After that strike on Bonanza Creek in 1896, Lind's grandfather made his way to Dawson to try his luck there alongside the other stampeders.

A photo of Phil Lind's grandfather Johnny Lind, who was in Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush. The photo is part of the collection Phil Lind donated to UBC.
A photo of Phil Lind's grandfather Johnny Lind, who was in Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush. The photo is part of the collection Phil Lind donated to UBC.(UBC Library)

"I've collected a lot of stuff over the years of Yukon in that period of time," Lind said from his home in Toronto.

"So it's pretty good collection."

Lind decided to donate the collection so that it could be well-preserved, and accessible to more people. He said UBC expressed a lot of interest and seemed like the best home for it.

He wants to see the material digitized and organized so it's easy to access and navigate. For Lind, the Klondike Gold Rush is a fascinating episode in Canadian history that's relatively forgotten by most people.

"I think it's important that people know more about that story," he said.

Phil Lind donated his collection of thousands of Klondike Gold Rush-era photos, books, journals, letters and more to the University of British Columbia.
Phil Lind donated his collection of thousands of Klondike Gold Rush-era photos, books, journals, letters and more to the University of British Columbia.(UBC Library)

Parker says the collection is a welcome addition to UBC because the Klondike Gold Rush is not just Yukon history, but also B.C. history.

"The events around the Gold Rush brought more people to what is now B.C.," Parker said.

"Everybody who wanted to go to the Klondike and to the Yukon for gold had to go to Vancouver to get outfitted. So a lot of miners came through. And so there's a connection there."

She hopes to make some of it available online, soon — but it's going to take a bit more time to go through all the material and organize it.

A copy of Jack London's novel Burning Daylight, another rare item in the Lind collection.
A copy of Jack London's novel Burning Daylight, another rare item in the Lind collection.(UBC Library)

"We're not exactly sure how long yet. We're working on understanding what that project would entail. And I think that our goal is to start making things available as soon as a year from now."

Along with the artifacts — valued at an estimated half-million dollars — Lind also donated $2 million to help UBC manage and preserve the collection.

Lind is happy that his decades of collecting might now add to what's known about a watershed era in northern history.

"It's just a great story," he said, "that's all there is to it."

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