The Royal BC Museum will close in September as the province has set aside $789 million for a new state-of-the-art and seismically safe building set to open in 2030. RBCM itself will also contribute to the modernization project through its fundraising campaigns.
“It has been a true honor to be a part of this historical moment,” said Melanie Mark, minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport in the emotional announcement Friday (May 13).
The new museum will reflect the experiences and perspectives of all who contributed to BC’s history, providing a cultural legacy for generations to come.
“This is just the start,” Chief Rob Thomas of the Esquimalt Nation said during the announcement. “The Lekwungen, we’ve been excluded from almost everything for a long time … to partner with BC and the museum in our traditional territory means so much to me.”
A museum’s purpose is to inspire learning and innovation while challenging perspectives, attitudes, how we think and how we interact with the world, museum CEO Alicia Dubois said.
“This is a mammoth announcement and one that is long overdue,” she added.
While the physical building will close for modernization, the museum will not. It will build on traveling programs and instead displays and enhance digital offerings.
“This is an opportunity for us to have conversations and to learn about all British Columbians through community engagement. We want to hear your stories and understand what you would like to see in a modern museum,” Dubois said.
For decades, people have come to learn about the province and the stories told here have failed to accurately reflect the colonial history or include everyone, said Premier John Horgan, adding priceless collections are also at risk in the aging building. The current building opened in August 1968.
The third-floor galleries have been long criticized for celebrating the European settlement of the province and underrepresenting Indigenous peoples and immigrant communities. In November 2021, following a damning internal report on racism, the museum announced it would close the galleries at the start of 2022 and begin a consultation process to determine how to replace them.
The museum closes Sept. 6. The BC Archives, also housed in the building on Belleville Street in Victoria, will remain open until moving to its permanent new home at the collections and research building in Colwood. That project is expected to be completed by 2025. Imax Victoria, the museum’s gift shop and the food trucks will remain open and on site through early 2023.
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