B.C. to spend $789 million to replace Royal BC Museum

Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

The province says it will spend nearly $800 million replacing the Royal BC Museum.

In a major announcement Friday, the B.C. government revealed that it plans to spend $789 million to replace the Royal BC Museum with a brand new museum that it claims will be state-of-the-art and seismically safe.

The new museum, which has not been named, is slated to open in 2030 and will remain at the same location in downtown Victoria, across the street from the B.C. Legislature.

“It will be a place where generations of British Columbians will learn more about the extraordinary history of this province,” Premier John Horgan said during Friday’s announcement which was held at the Royal BC Museum.

As part of the plan, the existing Royal BC Museum will close on Sept. 6. The Imax Victoria theatre, as well as the museum’s gift shop and the food trucks located at the museum, will remain open until sometime in early 2023. Once the museum completely closes, some exhibits will go on the road until the new facility reopens.

The provincial government claims the new museum will bring significant economic and social benefits to the region, supporting more than 1,950 direct construction jobs, as well as more than 1,050 associated jobs.

Though there are no renderings of the new museum, it will feature mass timber construction and will be designed to achieve maximum energy efficiency.

“We are going to be putting practical pieces of British Columbia into the walls, the floors and the ceilings of the building that will create thousands of local jobs,” said Horgan.

The Royal BC Museum has experienced turbulence in recent months, with staff members coming forward with allegations of racism, the CEO resigning, and the closure of the third-floor gallery.

Royal BC Museum CEO Alicia Dubois, who was on hand for Friday’s announcement, was brought on as the new CEO to help “modernize” the museum, and former NDP MLA, Carole James, was appointed to the museum board to help fix the culture at the museum.

Horgan said the time has come for the Royal BC Museum to be “brought into the 21st century” and tell the province’s story.

“Obviously, the impacts of colonizations are there for all of us to see. Precolonization, before the expansion of Europe, we had a rich, rich culture and tradition with hundreds of [First Nations] spanning thousands of years. Those stories, can, should and will be told in this institution,” he said, adding. “If we are going to tell our story, we have to ensure that everyone is included in that story.”

It’s not clear whether the Royal BC Museum name will change to something else. During Friday’s announcement, B.C.’s tourism minister, Melanie Mark said nothing has been decided on that front.

“We haven’t made any decisions there, I think,” said Mark. “We will be going out to British Columbians and asking what a reimagined, new, modern museum should and could look like and I imagine that we’re going to get a lot of suggestions on what the new name should be.”

The provincial government has hinted that the changes could be coming to the museum, with Mark recently penning an op-ed that said the museum facilities have reached the end of their useful life.

“They are seismically at risk and are vulnerable to damage,” Mark said in the Jan. 29 op-ed. “In the event of a major flood, artifacts and irreplaceable parts of B.C.’s history could be damaged and lost forever.”

Once completed, the new building will be a “safer, new inclusive, accessible modern museum” for the people of British Columbia and a “flagship destination” for tourism in Victoria and the province as a whole, said Horgan.

The announcement comes less than two years after the B.C. government unveiled plans to build a $200-million Collections and Research Building for the museum in Colwood.

npescod@cheknews.ca

Nicholas Pescod
Laura Brougham

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