The Klondike Letters Project is an ongoing public art project in collaboration with Klondike Goldrush International Historic Park. From June 25 thru July 7, 2012, I hiked the historic Chilkoot Trail as an artist-in-residence. During that 2 week period, I asked my fellow travelers to write a postcard to themselves as they hiked over the historic Chilkoot Pass from Alaska to the Yukon. The 174 postcards, along with sound recordings and my drawings from the trail, formed a collective memory portrait of the Chilkoot Trail. One year later, when the words and images of that journey had lost their sharpness and faded in the mind, I mailed those postcards to the writers as a vibrant catalyst for our memories of the Chilkoot.
From July 5 thru July 9, 2016, I hiked the trail again bringing a box of fresh postcards in the hopes of establishing an ongoing project. With the help of trail rangers and hut wardens from the National Parks Service and Parks Canada, we collected over 742 postcards in 2016, 1274 postcards in 2017, and over 1700 in 2018! Learn more and read postcards on klondikeletters.com
On a deeper level, this project is about why we seek out places of wildness and what we experience there. Though the stampeders were seeking gold in the Klondike wilderness, the vast majority didn’t find their fortune. From their letters and diaries, we can see they did find other things: adventure, suffering, love, an insight into human nature at its best and worst. It’s a long journey to get to the Klondike. What do you find in this place that you can’t experience in your daily life, what moment is going to change your life in some small but hopefully significant way? Ultimately, this is what makes these places worth preserving.