Behind-the-scenes sneak peek at Royal BC Museum’s orca exhibit


The Royal BC Museum is an iconic part of the Inner Harbour and an important part of our province’s history.

It’s also a chance to learn about other cultures, including the popular Maya exhibit on now.

“We have some really big alter pieces,” explains Royal BC Museum (RBCM) deputy CEO Joanne Orr. “They came out of the ground, literally, in an excavation in 2017 and what these two pieces do is shed light on the ancient Mayan culture and really tell us about a whole new dynasty that no one really knew anything about.”

During a special tour for CHEK News, Orr shows us stone steps that also have great anthropological and cultural significance.

“Some of these objects have never been seen outside of Guatemala so this is a really, really special exhibition,” says Orr. “We have been very lucky to get such an incredible array of objects and the quality is unbelievable. It’s one of the best exhibitions I’ve been involved with.”

The RBCM’s next exhibit is about orcas and Tess van Straaten got a special sneak peek.

In one of the prep labs, an area of the museum most people don’t get to see, specimen jars line the walls.

The Royal BC Museum has more than 2,000 reptile specimens, 30,000 birds ones and more than 33,00 mammal specimens.

One of the biggest ones will play a key role in the new orca exhibit.

It’s southern resident killer whale J-32, known as Rapsody, who washed ashore in 2014 with a fully-formed fetus inside her.

“It’s a really tragic story,” Orr says. “The fetus died and J-32 got an infection and passed away so she will be an important part of our orca exhibition showing some of the challenges facing our orcas.”

Both J-32’s skeleton and that of her calf will be on display.

Every tooth, vertebrae, and bone is individually catalogued — part of the immense work that goes into creating an exhibit.

“An average exhibition, you’re looking at least two years in the preparation and thousands and thousands of hours,” says Orr.

The orca exhibit will open on May 2020.

The Maya exhibit is on at the Royal BC Museum until Dec. 31.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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