Sam Otto fonds

Title Sam Otto fonds
Dates of creation 1927 - [197-?]
Physical description 0.1 cm of texual records
859 photographs (b&w negatives, b&w prints, b&w & col. digital files)
1 film reel (8mm), 19 Betacam SP videocassettes
Administrative history or biographical sketch Sam Otto was born in Morris Manitoba in 1907, one of a family of seventeen. In 1929, at the age of 22, he came to the Northwest Territories to search for gold as a prospector with Dominion Explorers in the Dubawnt Lake area, near the Thelon Game Sanctuary. He travelled far and wide, ending up paddling to Great Bear Lake, where he stayed without a break for four years. He worked for uranium mines and prospecting outfits in the Great Bear Lake region, sailing with the 'Great Bear' and mining for the B.E.A.R. mine at Contact Lake. In 1935 he pitched his first tent on Latham Island in Yellowknife, working at Burwash, Ptarmigan and Con mines, and continued to prospect. In 1937, he raised his first log cabin in the same area where he lived for the next four decades. Also that year, he received his trapper's license after the requisite four-year waiting period. Otto spent the better part of 14 winters at his 200-mile trapline, prospecting in the summer to supplement his income. In the fall (August/September) a plane would fly him out to his trapline near Artillery and Clinton-Colden lakes. The plane returned to pick him up in April. He had a main cabin, ran dogs, and did the rounds of his trapline. Sam Otto also spent one year (1942-1943) working on the Canol project. In 1952 he married Myrtle Ritchie of Edmonton and settled in Yellowknife, though he continued to prospect in the summer. Myrtle had three children from a previous relationship who came with her to Yellowknife: Sharon, Sherman and Sheldon; and in 1953 she gave birth to Lorraine. Myrtle stayed in Yellowknife, running the household, working at Imperial Oil, and expediting for Sam when he was in the bush. Sam died in Yellowknife in 1974. Myrtle remarried, became Myrtle McNeil, and lived in Grand Cache, Alberta. She passed away in Penticton, BC in 1994.
Scope and content This fonds consists of 0.1 cm of textual records, 859 photographs (242 black and white negatives, 300 black and white prints - original masters; 766 black and white digital files (TIFF), 15 colour digital files (TIFF) - archival masters; 55 black and white negatives, 23 black and white prints - original and archival masters), 15 8mm film reels (original masters), four 16mm film reels (original masters), 19 Betacam SP videocassettes (archival masters), and one 8mm film reel (original and archival master).

The textual records consist of a membership certificate. The majority of the photographs document Sam’s life prospecting, mining, and trapping between 1930 and 1950, while a smaller selection document Sam’s nuclear family life beginning in 1952. There are five main series of photographs: work in the Great Bear Lake region with the Northern Transportation Company and uranium mines in the early to mid-1930s; gold mining, camping, and prospecting in the Great Slave Lake area in the mid-1930s through the 1940s; work on the Canol project in 1942-1943; trapping on the barren lands (tundra) of the Keewatin region near Clinton-Colden Lake and the Back River area in the late 1930s to 1950; and Sam’s nuclear family life from 1952 onwards. Communities documented in this fonds include early images of Yellowknife’s Old Town and Latham Island, Fort Franklin (Deline), Cameron Bay camps, Norman Wells, Fort Resolution, and Fort Smith. The moving images document being on the land, prospecting, and hunting between 1930 and 1960, and town and family life between 1950 and 1970.

The digital files (TIFF) are scans of the original black and white negatives, black and white prints, and colour negatives, while the videocassettes are transfers from the original 8mm and 16mm film reels, all created by Sam Otto and loaned by his son Sheldon in 2000. The majority of the originally loaned items were returned by Sam Otto's daughter Lorraine in 2015, in addition to some newly offered materials.
Restrictions No access restrictions.
Copyright Copyright for majority transferred to NWT Archives by donor. Copyright for N-1979-512 is uknown.
Finding aids AIMS records
Reference # 382
Accessions list The fonds is comprised of the following accessions. Click any accession number below to see the accession description.
N-1979-512 N-2002-002
N-2004-026 N-2017-004