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Royal B.C. Museum gets $789-million overhaul

Museum to close in September for rebuild, expected opening in 2030
The Royal B.C. Museum will close in September in preparation for a rebuild. BC Archives will remain until 2025 with Imax Victoria staying open through early 2023. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Royal B.C. 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 honour 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 B.C.’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 B.C. 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.

RELATED: Royal B.C. Museum phasing out galleries that push colonial narrative

While the physical building will close for modernization, the museum will not. It will instead build on travelling programs and 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.

RELATED: Attempt to delay closure of Royal B.C. Museum galleries defeated by Victoria council

The third-floor galleries were 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.

RELATED: Royal B.C. Museum releases results of racism report, apologizes for mistreatment


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