B.C. government will create new Royal B.C. Museum with $789-million provincial grant

Old Town on the third floor closed earlier this year as part of a modernization initiative

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      In eight years, there will be a new provincial museum opening in Victoria.

      Today, Premier John Horgan and Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister Melanie Mark announced that it will replace the Royal B.C. Museum, which has been at the centre of some controversies in recent years.

      The new museum will be funded in part by a $789-million provincial grant. In addition, the Royal B.C. Museum will conduct fundraising campaigns to help pay for new buildings.

      The existing facility will close in September.

      “For decades, people from British Columbia and around the globe have come to the Royal B.C. Museum to learn about our special corner of the world," Horgan said in a news release. "For just as long, the stories told here have failed to accurately reflect our colonial history or include everyone, and priceless collections are now being put at risk in an aging building.

      “That’s why today, we are making this historic investment to build a safer, more inclusive and accessible modern building," he continued. "Once complete, the new museum will be a flagship destination for tourism and a place where generations to come will learn about the richness and diversity of B.C.’s history.”

      Last year, the chair of the Royal B.C. Museum issued an apology after an investigation found that Indigenous workers and people of colour had been subjected to discrimination.

      In addition, the report concluded that the museum has been a "colonial institution whose history, collections and exhibits have focused on promoting the colonization of BC by European settlers".

      The museum's board subsequently closed the "Old Town" exhibition on the third floor, which showed a 19th-century B.C. community, as part of a modernization initiative.

      The DOXA Documentary Film Festival recently premiered Beyond Extinction: Sinixt Resurgence, which showed how the Royal B.C. Museum was complicit in a government coverup of an injustice to Indigenous people.

      In 1956, the B.C. government declared the Sinixt people of the Kootenays "extinct", even though they continue to exist and there is considerable archeological evidence of their presence since before colonization.

      In 1982, this was demonstrated in a report by heritage consultant Gordon Mohs. In Ali Kazimi's film, Mohs reveals that the report was transferred to the Royal B.C. Museum, where it was "buried".

      The tourism minister, Mark, is of Nisga'a, Gitxsan, Cree, and Ojibway heritage. She declared in the government news release that the walls of the museum will be turned "inside out to create a dynamic space" that will be "inclusive of all the stories of the people who have shaped B.C."

      “Museums are more important than ever to be a canvas for our history and inspiration for our future." Mark said. "Our partnership with the local First Nations to guide us to this stage is truly reconciliation in action. From the exhibits and programs to the employees and building itself, we are bringing the people’s museum into the 21st century.”

      The Old Town section was shut down at the start of this year.
      Royal B.C. Museum

      Timeline for new Royal B.C. Museum

      • 2022: Royal B.C. Museum launches travelling exhibitions, satellite exhibitions, school learning exhibitions and digital experiences
      • Spring 2022: adviser procurements released to public
      • June 2022: collections and research building design-build contract begins
      • Sept. 6, 2022: Royal B.C. Museum closes with ceremony
      • Fall 2022:
        • public engagement sessions begin
        • request for qualifications issued for design-build proponents for the new museum
        • collections and research building groundbreaking ceremony
        • modernization procurement begins
      • Spring 2023: exhibition hall contents move to leased warehouse
      • Spring 2024:
        • modernization design and consultation begin
        • hazardous materials abatement begins
        • deconstruction of exhibition hall begins
      • Winter 2025: Fannin Building contents move to collections and research building
      • Winter 2026: construction of new exhibition hall begins
      • 2030: new museum grand opening