Maritime Museum of BC proposes national title change, return to original location

Maritime Museum of BC proposes national title change, return to original location

WATCH: The Maritime Museum of BC’s collection dates back to the late 18th century. Ceilidh Millar reports. 

Inside the Maritime Museum of BC, visitors will find everything from artifacts to historic photos, but what’s lacking is space.

“I often affectionately refer to this space as the life boat,” explained president David Leverton of the Maritime Museum of BC.

The museum has been operating out of a 3,000 square foot facility in Nootka Court on Humboldt Street in Victoria, but it was only meant to be a temporary location.

“It’s almost like we’ve been adrift for the last three years,” Leverton explained.

In 2015, the province forced the museum out of its home of nearly 50 years which was the former site of BC’s first courthouse in Bastion Square.

The province cited concerns over the condition of the building and seismic upgrades, but it has remained vacant ever since.

With limited options for permanent housing in the city, the museum is proposing to move back into the 30,000 square foot space under a new national title.

“We would actually refer to it as the Canadian Maritime Museum,” said Leverton.

However, they are up against competing pitches to the province for the building.

The City of Victoria wants to see the national historic site restored into a collaborative arts hub, citing the need for affordable spaces as increased rents have forced many artists out of the downtown core.

While the province has final say on the future of the building, the museum is going to the federal government for support and financing.

“With the help of Ottawa it gives us an opportunity to be the first national museum west of Winnipeg,” Leverton explained.

Switching to a national focus would mean showcasing maritime items from other parts of Canada.

The proposed five-year re-development plan by the museum would require additions and upgrades to the Bastion Square building at the cost of $45-million.

“It’s certainly a key building historically for the province and we want to make sure that tradition and background is retained,” said architect and urban design planner Chris Cower who is working on the proposed design.

With a collection of nearly 35,000 artifacts dating back the late 18th century, Leverton believes our history deserves to be in the spotlight which means allocating a permanent home.

“The whole intention here is for us to become the 7th national corporation identifed under the Federal Museums Act,” said Leverton. “We would like to be a part of that and be included in the national family.”

Ceilidh MillarCeilidh Millar

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