Most BC residents against $800 million Royal BC Museum project: survey

Jun 16 2022, 7:38 pm

The controversial strategy of redeveloping the Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria at an estimated cost of $789 million has hit a sour note amongst most of the province’s residents.

According to the findings of a new survey by Angus Reid Institute, 69% of residents are opposed to the project, with 42% “strongly opposed” and 27% “opposed.” Only 4% “strongly support” the project, while 18% “support.”

The BC NDP has come under fire for its communications strategy of presenting the project to the public and the lack of any public consultation to reach the conclusion of pursuing the major investment. This also comes at a time of rampant inflation and cost of living increases for residents.

There is a need to redevelop the 1968-built museum building with a modern, seismic-resilient structure, while also providing the museum with added exhibition space and dedicated storage space that protects seven million artifacts. Currently, the museum’s collections in the existing facility’s basement are at severe risk of a catastrophic loss from even a moderate earthquake or flooding. The museum has seen little reinvestment since it was first constructed more than half a century ago.

But according to the survey’s findings, most residents are unmoved by the museum’s precarious state.

Three in five (62%) note they would not have changed the museum’s approach and stuck with the status quo option of $89 million, regardless of the risks to the collections. One in five (18%) say the government’s chosen option — building a new museum on-site and another satellite facility off-site for collections — is the right choice.

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Highly preliminary concept of the new Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria; not the actual design. (Government of BC)

The provincial government is pushing forward with its redevelopment plan, with the existing museum in downtown Victoria now scheduled to close in September 2022. This will mean Victoria will be without one of its largest tourist attractions for nearly a decade.

It will take about 2.5 years to pack and move millions of artifacts out of the facility, and the process to remove hazardous materials and demolish the building will take another 2.5 years.

The BC Liberals have promised to cancel the museum project if they form government following the next provincial general election expected for sometime in 2024. But it is expected that it will be impossible to cancel the project by then, as demolition of the existing museum is slated to start in early 2024.

Construction on the new downtown Victoria museum building will begin in 2025 for an opening in 2030. This includes 1.5 years for outfitting the interior with exhibition spaces and galleries.

When the $224 million cost of the Royal BC Museum’s new satellite facility for collections and storage in the Greater Victoria suburb of Colwood is included with the new downtown Victoria museum cost, the overall museum modernization project exceeds $1 billion. Construction on the Colwood facility is slated to begin later this year for completion in 2025.

The provincial government owns the Royal BC Museum and operates it as a crown corporation.

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Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria (Google Earth)

royal bc museum victoria

The existing Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria. (Royal BC Museum)


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