City of Gold

In this 1957 classic film, Pierre Berton talks about his hometown of Dawson City. A recollection of the Klondike gold rush at its height, City of Gold used still photographs to compare Dawson City of the gold rush era with the town in the 1950s. It is, in essence, the “Ken Burns” technique years before that filmmaker’s breakthrough documentary, Brooklyn Bridge.

The documentary began when Colin Low visited the Public Archives in Whitehorse, Canada, and found 200 photographs taken by A. E. Hegg during the Gold Rush in 1898-99. These 8 × 10 glass plate negatives had been found in wooden boxes in a sod-roofed log house, but were fortunately saved and restored. The plates provided incredibly sharp images; photographer Hegg brought an eye for faces and context to his work. This is a real gem, lasting around twenty-one minutes.