BC government officially halts $800 million Royal BC Museum redevelopment

Jun 22 2022, 7:46 pm

The BC government is pumping the brakes on the $800 million redevelopment project of the Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria after public backlash.

Premier John Horgan made the announcement during a news conference Wednesday afternoon, accepting blame for making what he characterized as the wrong decision at the wrong time.

“We thought we had it right. Clearly we did not. I have heard people of BC quite clearly,” he said. “Today I’m announcing we’re stopping the project going to go back to drawing board.”

The current museum will keep operating into the fall, Horgan said.

While the new museum in Victoria is now put on hold, the government still intends to move forward with its $224 million satellite museum facility in the Greater Victoria suburb of Colwood for the new home of Royal BC Museum’s collections and storage. Construction on this satellite facility is expected to begin this year for an opening in 2025, and it will provide a new home for storing seven million artefacts currently located in the basement of the Victoria museum.

The government announced its redevelopment plans for the museum this spring, billing it as a project that would create a new state-of-the-art facility to showcase the province’s history and provide easier access to its records and archives. The plan entailed demolishing the existing building.

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 said earlier this year that the museum needs to be modernized through a reconciliation lens that adds an Indigenous narrative layer.

The project has also caught controversy not only for its unexplained cost, but over the lack of public consultation before arriving at this advanced stage of the planning process.

Officials said there was a risk of losing history if nothing is done. The building has poor seismic safety, and its collections are vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, and Tsunamis. It’s located below sea level in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, which Horgan said Wednesday was unacceptable.

With files from Daily Hive’s Kenneth Chan

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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