VICTORIA – The Royal British Columbia Museum needs to be brought into the 21st century and that means spending nearly $800 million on a new building, Premier John Horgan says.
The current museum next door to the B.C. legislature will close its doors in September to allow for the construction of the new building.
It will be offering travelling exhibitions and regional satellite displays in the province before the new museum is expected to open in 2030.
Horgan said the $789-million building will be seismically safer, inclusive, accessible and modern.
“Once complete, it will be a state-of-the-art museum, a flagship destination for tourism in British Columbia but particularly here in Victoria, and it will be a place where generations of British Columbians will learn more about the extraordinary history of this province,” he told a news conference Friday.
The government announced two years ago that it was building a satellite facility for research and storage for the museum in the neighbouring community of Colwood, budgeted at $224 million.
Melanie Mark, B.C.’s minister of tourism and the only First Nations woman to serve in cabinet, said the museum will update its exhibits through consultations with residents, including Indigenous communities.
Mark said though the changes are long overdue, she considers it to be “reconciliation in action.”
“We are taking the diverse stories of British Columbians, and Indigenous people, out of the shadows and into the light,” she said.
Chief Rob Thomas of the Esquimalt Nation said he was very happy to be included in the planning.
“To be part of this, to partner with the museum in our own traditional territory, means so much to me,” he said. “Finally, First Nations are being heard, seen and appreciated, not just as First Nations, but our culture, our history, and that doesn’t go unnoticed from our people.”
In November, the Royal BC Museum announced some sections were closing to work to decolonize its Indigenous exhibits. The move was in response to calls from Indigenous leaders after reports released last year made allegations of racist and toxic working conditions at the institution.
It named Alicia Dubois as its new CEO in February. She came to the job after serving as CEO for the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation in Calgary.
Dubois said Friday that staff are currently going through mandatory training to combat systemic discrimination and racism, and said the museum is working to hire a diverse staff that “reflects the population.”
She noted the new buildings will recognize Indigenous territory and incorporate their ceremonial, cultural and celebratory spaces.
“Our mandate is to be a museum for all people of British Columbia,” Dubois said. “This is not an erasure of history, this is a celebration of it.”
— By Brieanna Charlebois in Vancouver.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
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