Museum dreams
Long-time Northerner set to preserve city's history gets recognition

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 20/98) - Erik Watt, a long-time Yellowknifer with a keen interest in the city's history dreams of one day opening a museum that captures the essence of Yellowknife's past.

In the legislature last Friday Yellowknife Centre MLA Jake Ootes spoke of Watt's mining museum dream.

"If you come to town any other time than mining week, there are precious few exhibits which capture the golden years," said Ootes. "The idea of a mining museum is a good one. We need to preserve what made us special and we are losing pieces of our history everyday."

Ootes said while mining memorabilia can be found at the Wildcat Cafe and the Prospector Bar and Grill, which feature a collection of relics and maps, it would be better if an abandoned mine site could be cleaned up and outfitted like a vintage camp, creating jobs and economic spin-offs.

"This idea cannot lose," said Ootes.

Ootes is urging the Department of Education, Culture and Employment to initiate discussions with Spirit Yellowknife.

Watt said he would like to see his dream become a reality but admits he has been out of touch with the idea for about six months now.

"I've been off sick. I haven't been involved in it for a while," said Watt.

The last project Watt worked on with Spirit Yellowknife was trying to find a potential building for the museum.

The group first looked at the old Con site and then had thoughts about the Giant bunkhouse.

"The last best bet was the old bunkhouse," said Watt.

Watt's duties and dream have been passed off to Spirit Yellowknife newly elected president Merlyn Williams and other members.

Preserving history

On Tuesday, Watt was presented with a plaque from the City of Yellowknife Heritage Committee for his lifetime contribution to the preservation and promotion of the heritage of Yellowknife.

Friends and supporters gathered at the Prospector for lunch to pay tribute to the pioneer.

CBC reporter Dave Miller spoke of Watt's early years as a journalist, as the first national reporter of the North and as a mentor for young journalists.

Roland Semjanovs was asked to speak and recalled Watt's days shovelling coal on a ship before becoming an editor of News of the North.

Terry Pamplin also had heart-felt words to say about Watt as a close friend as well as Mayor Dave Lovell who presented him with the plaque.

Watt has many accomplishments as a Northerner. He was the first reporter on the Supreme Court's fly-in circuit to the communities and started the controversy that got residential schools closed.