BC government to build new $800 million, world-class Royal BC Museum

May 13 2022, 9:43 pm

The Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria as we know it will cease to exist by September 6, 2022, when it will permanently close to begin its complete demolition and redevelopment.

During a press conference this afternoon, the provincial government officially signalled the start of a new era for the museum through the construction of a new world-class, state-of-the-art museum building at its current five-acre location on the edge of Victoria Inner Harbour, right next to the BC legislature.

This brand new main museum complex is expected to carry a total cost of $789 million, and its design and construction process will last through the very end of this decade. This will be the provincial government’s largest single non-hospital building investment since the construction of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West Building and BC Place Stadium’s renovations and new roof.

The existing museum has seen few major changes and upgrades since it was built in 1967. The provincial government emphasized today the need to safeguard seven million artifacts in modern, seismic-resilient facilities.

“Once complete, it will be a state-of-the-art museum, a flagship destination for tourism in British Columbia, but particularly here in Victoria. It will be a place for generations of British Columbians will learn more about the extraordinary history of this province,” said Premier John Horgan.

“We have gone through the due diligence that governments must do when making massive investments like this. But this is an investment that will spread out across the province.”

royal bc museum victoria

Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria (Google Earth)

royal bc museum third floor exhibits removal

Exhibits on the third floor of Royal BC Museum that have been closed and removed for decolonization. (Royal BC Museum)

Since last year, the museum has come under fire for its decision to close its European settler galleries in early 2022 — a move that saw heavy criticism for a lack of public consultation and transparency over both the exhibit closure and the museum’s future.

Officials today reiterated the need to also modernize the museum through a reconciliation lens that adds an Indigenous narrative layer.

“We are taking action to ensure the stories of all British Columbians who shaped this province are added to the collections and exhibitions halls of the new Royal BC Museum. We are taking the diverse stories of British Columbians and Indigenous people out of the shadows and into the light,” said Melanie Mark, the BC Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport.

Alicia Dubois, the new CEO of the Royal BC Museum, added: “The museum’s purpose is to inspire learning, curiosity, self-reflection, and innovation, and to challenge our perspectives, attitudes, the way we think, how we interact, and how we show up in the world.”

“Royal BC Museum is a provincial treasure. The Royal BC Museum is privileged to house the province’s historical collections, artifacts, and archives, and also work closely with Indigenous communities on repatriation matters for their belongings. We have been doing all of this important work in a museum that has passed its useful life.”

royal bc museum victoria

Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria. (Shutterstock)

royal bc museum victoria

Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria. (Destination BC)

At this stage of the design and planning process, there are no conceptual visuals of the new museum, but Horgan and Mark said it will extensively use mass timber materials, have a high degree of green design features, and achieve high efficiency for all of its HVAC system. Local First Nations will also be consulted to establish a design with Indigenous influences.

Although the museum building will close its doors this September after the Labour Day weekend, the BC Archives will remain open until it is relocated to its new permanent home at the Royal BC Museum’s collections and research building in the Victoria suburb of Colwood in 2025.

Additionally, the IMAX theatre, museum gift shop, and food trucks will remain open until early 2023.

The new replacement Royal BC Museum building is scheduled to open in 2030. It is anticipated this single building alone will generate about 2,000 direct construction jobs and over 1,000 indirect jobs benefiting Greater Victoria and the province.

Along with the Colwood facility, which is budgeted at $224 million, the entire Royal BC Museum modernization of constructing two new facilities at different locations will carry a combined cost of over $1 billion.

Dubois says the museum will take the next few years during the main museum building’s downtime to develop new collections that will be showcased in the new museum.

Additionally, there will be travelling and pop-up exhibitions of the museum’s collections in Victoria and across the province.

Earlier this year, the provincial government also announced a $27.5 million investment towards the establishment of Canada’s largest Chinese Canadian Museum within the former Rennie headquarters and private museum in Vancouver’s Chinatown. The Chinese Canadian Museum will open in 2023.

royal bc museum victoria

Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria. (Shutterstock)

royal bc museum third floor exhibits removal

Exhibits on the third floor of Royal BC Museum that will be removed for “decolonization.” (Royal BC Museum)

royal bc museum third floor exhibits removal

Exhibits on the third floor of Royal BC Museum that will be removed for “decolonization.” (Royal BC Museum)

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