Protect the Peel digital archives project – a retrospective

Written by Judith van Gulick, Operations Manager

The reason that CPAWS Yukon was founded in the early nineties, was to bring greater attention to conservation issues in the Yukon. More specifically, conservation in the early years was mainly focused on the Bonnet Plume river and the Peel watershed. In August 2019, the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use plan was signed.

Boxes of folders and papers pertaining to the Protect the Peel campaign and other projects, housed on shelves in the CPAWS Yukon basement

How many documents were created during a campaign that took more than twenty five years to complete? The answer is: enough to almost fill up the entire basement of our office! 

Archive work can often be perceived as mundane and tedious. Luckily we found an enthusiastic intern in early 2019, who spent many months creating a consolidated archive of all research documents, reports, communications between partners, and campaign visuals. The result was a well organized paper archive of the Protect the Peel campaign. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t that easy for staff members to search the archives or to locate information to use for current campaigns, nor were these important materials safeguarded from floods or fires. 

It was a priority for our organization to digitize the archives for safekeeping – this would also enhance searchability and accessibility for staff and researchers outside of our organization. The Government of Yukon’s Community Development Fund (CDF) agreed with the importance of this project and decided to fund about half of the expenses. Thanks to CDF’s funding and ECO Canada’s Digital Skills for Youth wage subsidy, we were able to hire a Junior Digital Archivist, Asad Chishti, and could contract two professional archivists from the Yukon Council of Archives (YCA) to work together on this project. Those three individuals love archives!

The result of many hours of scanning documents, digitizing visuals, and completing the database, is a searchable index that is accessible to all CPAWS Yukon staff members. Staff can use keywords (tags) to search for documents and can easily click on the hyperlinks to bring them to the appropriate document. The wonderful thing about completing this project is that we can easily use past campaign materials to tell intriguing stories about CPAWS Yukon’s history, bring back memories from past successes, and use lessons that we learned in the past to build even better campaigns today and in the future! 

Digitizing the archives already proved helpful to our community outreach team. Asad provided valuable and insightful input during land use planning campaign meetings thanks to their excellent skills in sourcing relevant information. Using photos, important quotes, and letters, which were singled out from the archives, Asad assisted the outreach team with the development of their campaign strategy and outreach plan. 

All of this helps to contextualize how our work on future land use plans extends, borrows and remixes the lessons from the Peel Regional Land Use Planning process. This is something we hope to communicate in order for communities to prepare for land use planning in their regions.

Not only do we now have a digital archive of the Protect the Peel campaign, we’re also set up to add materials to the archives in the future. The YCA archivists led the writing of an archival policy as well as an appraisal policy, which gives our organization much-needed guidance in the process of building upon our archives. You might even say that we’re more excited about archives than we ever thought possible!

The digital archives are – for the moment – only directly accessible to our staff. We welcome you to contact us at if you’re interested in a particular report, topic, or other detail from the Protect the Peel archives – we’re happy to help you find the information that you’re looking for!

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