The province will invest in the new Royal BC Museum due to open in 2030

The current Belleville Street site is scheduled to close on September 6, with the new building not expected to open until 2030.

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The Royal British Columbia Museum, a destination for nearly a million tourists and locals each year, will close in September, be torn down and replaced with a modern building in 2030.

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The province announced Friday that it will spend $789 million to build a modern replacement, 54 years after the museum complex opened as a Centennial project.

Combined with the $224 million Archives and Collections building currently being designed for Colwood’s Royal Bay neighbourhood, the total price tag is $1 billion, which Prime Minister John Horgan called the single most significant cultural investment in the city. history of British Columbia.

The museum complex of five buildings, spread over five acres, hasn’t had significant renovations in decades. It is considered outdated, insufficiently accessible and full of asbestos, and officials say it is putting the collections and the people who visit and work there at risk.

Late last year, the museum sparked a public outcry when it closed its pioneer and First Nations exhibits, saying it needed to “decolonize” its exhibits and develop new exhibits featuring “forgotten” minorities who also helped build the province.

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“For decades, people from British Columbia and around the world have come to the Royal BC Museum to learn about our special corner of the world. For as long, the stories told here have failed to accurately reflect our colonial history or include everyone, and now priceless collections in an aging building are being put at risk,” Horgan said in Friday’s announcement at the museum. .

“That is why we are making this historic investment to build a safer, more inclusive and more accessible modern building. Once completed, the new museum will be an iconic destination for tourism and a place where generations to come will learn about the richness and diversity of BC’s history.”

The museum will close permanently on September 6.

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The BC Archives will remain open on the center site until they move to a new permanent home in the Collections and Research Building at Colwood 2025. Imax Victoria, the museum’s gift shop and food trucks located at the museum will remain open until early 2023.

The museum’s closure will hit tourism hard for the next decade, said Paul Nursey, chief executive of Destination Greater Victoria.

He said the museum has always been the heavyweight attraction when it comes to national and international companies booking ticketed tours of the city.

“Our eyes are wide open on the medium- and long-term impact here,” Nursey said, noting that high-spending international travelers book tours through tour companies that rely on top attractions to develop itineraries.

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Without the museum, Nursey said they will “lean on” trusted venues like Butchart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, as well as newer options like Explore Songhees, the Malahat Skywalk and agritourism on the Saanich Peninsula.

“We will try to mitigate the challenges,” he said, adding that in the long run, a modern museum will be beneficial. “We saw this in Vancouver when they were building the convention center and Canada Line… when they were finished, things got better.”

Richard Porges, president and CEO of Destination British Columbia, agreed, saying a new museum will help BC compete for visitors in an “increasingly competitive” travel market.

Tourism Minister Melanie Mark said the museum will continue to reach people across the province with traveling exhibits, regional satellite exhibits and an interactive walking tour in Victoria. Museum events, community programs and learning experiences will also expand throughout the province.

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Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said the city and the museum are in talks about how much public space will be available at the new archives and research center at Royal Bay — up to 30,000 square feet may be made available for exhibits and visitors. when the project is complete. in 2025.

Mark said the new building using British Columbia-made solid wood will be a museum for the next generation, saying the museum’s government, board and staff, along with First Nations, are “turning the walls upside down.” to create an emblematic historic center, which includes all the stories of the people who have shaped BC”

“Our partnership with local First Nations to guide us to this stage is true reconciliation in action,” he said. “From the exhibits and programs to the employees and the building itself, we are bringing the town museum into the 21st century.”

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Mark said the new museum will reflect consultations with British Columbians and indigenous communities. Existing exhibits and cultural content will tell BC’s story in a respectful way, he said, with broader and more inclusive perspectives, including the voices and experiences of all communities.

Horgan added: “Nothing will be erased. Everyone will be represented.”

BC Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark speaks at a funding announcement for a new Royal BC Museum Victoria, BC, May 13, 2022.
BC Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark speaks at a funding announcement for a new Royal BC Museum Victoria, BC, May 13, 2022. Photo by DARREN STONE /COLONIST TIMES

Esquimalt chief Rob Thomas said First Nations people are finally “being heard, seen and appreciated because of our culture and history…and that’s not lost on our people.”

Florence Dick of the Esquimalt Nation, part of the museum’s modernization committee, said in an interview that she will be happy to see the old building come down and be replaced by a new space where First Nations stories can be heard and seen.

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Meanwhile, the museum’s new executive director, Alicia Dubois, said many of the artifacts are being prepared for long-term storage, including those on the closed third floor.

The museum has more than seven million pieces in its collection. Much of it will go to a massive warehouse on the grounds of Victoria International Airport, Dubois said. Under a long-term lease, the space will be equipped with climate-controlled spaces to protect the artifacts.

The 27-meter-tall Dutch carillon, a gift from the BC Dutch community to honor Canada’s centennial and an anchor of the museum on Belleville Street, will likely be dismantled during construction but will return to the new museum, Dubois said.

Mark said naming the new museum, and possibly dropping the word Royal, will be part of future discussions.

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Dubois also said repatriation of artifacts to First Nations will continue, though a shortage of staff to handle dozens of requests is hampering progress.

The province said the new museum project is expected to generate more than 1,950 direct construction jobs, as well as more than 1,050 associated jobs.

dkloster@timescolonist.com


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