The Royal BC Museum will move its vast archives and collections to a new purpose-built research and storage facility in Colwood, located southwest of Victoria within the Capital Region District.
The provincial government announced the project as the first phase of its modernization project of the provincially-owned museum, which operates as a crown corporation.
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The 151,000-sq-ft facility will be built on an eight-acre parcel of land within the 158-acre Royal Bay development by Vancouver-based Gablecraft Homes. The property was acquired by the provincial government for $14 million.
This will be an energy-efficient, mass-timber building, with construction generating over 950 direct and indirect jobs.
The museum’s satellite facility is located within an area dedicated for employment, office, and institutional uses. The overall redevelopment by Gablecraft Homes entails a retail village, office space, and thousands of homes — a mix of single-family dwellings, townhouses, and low- to mid-rise multi-family buildings — for about 6,000 residents.
“Today we are taking the first major step to modernize the Royal BC Museum,” said Lisa Beare, BC Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, in a statement.
“Our government is building a state-of-the-art facility to preserve our history for future generations. This construction project will create jobs for people on Vancouver Island and help support BC’s economic recovery.”
Pre-construction work on the facility will begin in October, when crews will perform surveying and earthworks. A procurement process will be launched over the coming months, and construction is expected to start in winter 2021 for a completion in summer 2024.
“We are thankful to the Province for delivering on its commitment to modernize the Royal BC Museum,” said Daniel Muzyka, board chair of the museum.
“We’re excited that this new building will protect the collections and also make them more accessible to the people of BC.”
Upon completion, the facility will house the archives, collections, and research departments of the museum. It will hold collections on birds and mammals, botany, fish, entomology, history, paleontology, and modern history.
Within downtown Victoria, the museum currently has over seven million objects and specimens in its collection, and 28 linear kilometres of archival materials, including original artwork by Emily Carr.
The relocated archives, collections, and research departments will also allow the provincial government to proceed with the second phase of the modernization project, which entails the redevelopment of the existing, 1967-built museum into a world-class educational and tourist attraction. Plans for the museum reconstruction will be announced in 2021.
The museum buildings on five acres of downtown Victoria have not seen major renovations in over half a century. The complex of buildings total about 250,000 sq. ft. of floor area, with 20% of the space as exhibition space, 70% as research and storage space, and 10% as lobby, administration, and gift shop space.
The IMAX Victoria theatre attached to the museum shows both educational films and Hollywood movies.
The museum’s annual operating budget is about $21 million, with $11.866 million from the provincial government as a subsidy, about $6 million from admissions, and the remainder from various other sources.