Third-Floor Galleries Closed for Modernization
The third-floor galleries have been closed for Modernization.
The Royal BC Museum third floor comprised the First Peoples gallery, Our Living Languages: First Peoples’ Voices in BC exhibition, and Becoming BC gallery. 3D tours of the third-floor galleries were captured before the third-floor gallery closures and will be published in 2022 to provide further opportunities for those who couldn’t make it in-person to visit the third-floor galleries as they were originally designed. Please sign-up for notification when these are available.
During the third-floor closure, the Royal BC Museum offers an opportunity for visitors to provide feedback and input through survey stands located in the museum’s lobby. In addition, we will continue to engage with the community through webinars, online learning and virtual tours.
The museum will also be active across the Province through its travelling exhibition program and introducing its new pop-up exhibit program. More details on dates and locations can be found on the Travelling Exhibitions page.
Government has committed to modernization of the Royal BC Museum starting with the Collections and Research Building in Colwood which is currently in the procurement phase for a design-build team and is expected to break ground in Summer 2022 and complete in 2025. Government will be considering options for the downtown site in early 2022.
Becoming BC Gallery
Explore immersive exhibits such as Old Town and HMS Discovery, and journey through the decades in Century Hall. https://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/visit/exhibitions/becoming-bc-gallery
First Peoples Gallery
Experience the rich diversity and living cultures of First Peoples in British Columbia. https://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/visit/exhibitions/first-peoples-gallery
A Focus for Change
The Royal BC Museum commits to a continuous journey of greater equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. https://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/about/focus-change
The Process of Modernizing the Galleries
- What is involved?
First staff will conduct an initial inspection of the collections on display to determine whether conservation treatment is necessary, to preserve the objects for future exhibits and future generations, before they are returned to collections for storage and considered for use in future exhibits or research.
Indigenous cultural belongings, such as those on display in the First Peoples Gallery, take longer to decant because the process must follow important cultural protocols set by the communities from where the objects originated. Museum staff will continue to work with communities on access to their cultural objects and treasures throughout the closure.
- Who is responsible for this work?
Curators, conservators and collections managers—all of whom are trained to safely handle collections. This work will take place in partnership with communities where appropriate, to ensure artifacts are handled with proper cultural protocols.
There are no demolition crews, construction workers or renovation labourers involved in the process of decanting. Historical collections are very fragile and sensitive to their environments, so decanting can only be performed by museum professionals who are trained to handle the collections.
- Where are the items going?
The objects removed from the galleries will be carefully removed, packed and stored. Items from the Becoming BC and First Peoples gallery will be included in the new galleries at the museum site.
- How long have the objects been untouched in some of those exhibits?
With the exception of regular conservation inspections, many objects in the third-floor galleries have been on display since the galleries first opened, 50 years ago. A thorough review of where and why objects are on display is long overdue.
- How are galleries and exhibitions maintained over time?
Objects on display receive regular inspections and, if necessary, conservation treatment. There are daily inspections of the museum by the Exhibitions team, where they look for obvious signs of disruption or damage to the galleries, these are also monitored by our security team on camera.
The Conservation and Collections teams practice regular care and maintenance in terms of dusting and cleaning of open displays and running an integrated pest management program.
- Why are the third floor galleries being closed?
As part of the Modernization project, in the government consultation in 2019, we heard that British Columbians want us to make changes that will include the voices and reflect the lived experiences of the communities and peoples in British Columbia.
It’s imperative to ensure the stories of Indigenous peoples and that of other institutionally under-represented peoples are accurately reflected in our exhibits and galleries at the museum.
All the artifacts and cultural items in the First Peoples gallery and the Becoming BC gallery, which includes Old Town, are being kept and conserved. Many of these artifacts will form part of the new galleries. No histories are being erased and no treasures are being destroyed. Structures like the display cases, the wooden facades and staging, which includes Old Town and Captain Vancouver’s ship HMS Discovery will be dismantled.
The facades, staging and display cases of the exhibits need to be modernized. When the galleries on the third floor were built over 50 years ago, materials were used that do not meet today’s standards. They contain hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead. In normal operations these materials do no provide any risk to visitors or staff, but with the modernizing and changing of the spaces, these materials could be disturbed which requires us to take proper precautions and ensure everything is modernized and up to current standards.
The B.C. government is working to modernize the Royal BC Museum. As outlined in Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport’s mandate letter, work continues to redevelop the museum.
- Why is this happening now?
The museum’s board of directors has committed to modernizing the museum and ensuring it is a culturally safe and inclusive place for all the people of BC.
The museum has been working toward modernization for a number of years. In 2018, the Province began working with the museum to support modernization. The need for upgraded facilities to preserve and protect the collections was identified and has been shared publicly. The museum and archives’ extensive collections have outgrown the available space and the buildings no longer meet today’s accessibility or seismic standards.
The Collections and Research Building (CRB) in Colwood is the first phase of the Modernization project and is currently in the request for proposals stage. The successful design and build team will be announced in summer 2022 and the CRB is expected to open in summer 2025.
The intent to move forward on the updates required to the galleries was shared in our, June 29th 2021 Report to British Columbians, which outlined the need for the museum to replace our outdated Human History galleries with inclusive new exhibits that reflect the many histories of the people in British Columbia.
Government is currently reviewing options for the second phase of Modernization. A decision is expected in 2022.
Community engagement is an important part of modernization. We have begun initial outreach, including an interactive survey posted on the third floor of the museum that asks visitors to share what they love most about the galleries and what they would like to see in the future. We are also in the planning stages of a formal province wide public outreach process which will begin in Spring 2022.
- Will Old Town be rebuilt?
It has always been our intention that future galleries continue to be immersive and experiential. Deep consideration and collaboration on how to develop a more inclusive and contemporary experience, including Old Town and the First Peoples Gallery, will be undertaken in the next few years.
We have heard from many British Columbians that Old Town is a loved part of the museum. The immersive sights and smells are a popular highlight. These opinions, thoughts, concerns and ideas will help to inform future decisions and will be part of the museum’s community outreach and engagement process over the coming years.
There are hazardous materials in the facades of the exhibits, including Old Town and the First Peoples Gallery. It is important to note that these are just facades, essentially immersive display cases and props, and they can be recreated using materials that meet today’s standards. These materials do no provide any risk to visitors or staff, but with the decanting of the spaces, these materials could be disturbed which requires us to take proper precautions to protect the health and safety of both visitors and staff.
The historical and cultural objects housed within these facades will all carefully removed and conserved. No histories are being erased and no artifacts are being destroyed.
- Are the hazardous materials in the exhibits a risk to visitors?
The materials within the exhibition facades are not a risk to visitors. Removing hazards has been a priority for the museum for a number of years. In normal operations these materials do no provide any risk to visitors or staff, but with the modernization and changes to the spaces, these materials could be disturbed which requires us to take proper precautions to protect the health and safety of both visitors and staff.
- Are the hazardous materials in the exhibitions a risk to museum staff?
The museum has a hazardous materials consultant providing direction and advice for all work. The museum staff who will be working on the decanting process on the third floor are all trained to work within those areas and are fitted for and equipped with special safety equipment to protect them while they conduct this important work.
- What does “decant” mean?
“Decant” is a term frequently used in a museum context and means to remove collections - historical objects or specimens - from their gallery displays.
- What exhibits have been closed since the November 3rd announcement?
The lumber and mining mezzanines in the Becoming BC gallery, and the Cosmology display in the First Peoples’ gallery closed in November. The work to decant these exhibitions has begun, however none of the work will involve disrupting hazardous material until the third floor is fully closed. All other exhibits, including the ship Discovery, Old Town, the gold panning exhibit (featuring the water wheel) and Totem Hall will remain open to visitors until December 31, 2021.
- Which exhibits will be affected?
There will be minimal closures of the third floor galleries, with limited impact to visitors, starting in November. The phased closures will affect lower-traffic areas such as the mezzanine levels Forestry and Mining. All three of the third-floor galleries (Becoming BC, First Peoples Gallery and Our Living Languages) will be closed as of January 2nd 2022.
- Are you removing stories of early settler history?
No, we are looking to broaden the narrative to be inclusive of all peoples of modern British Columbia. European-settler history is a part of BC history, and it will always be represented in the museum. All of our histories are important and want we want to ensure we represent a true diversity of the stories of the past.
The exhibitions on the third floor are being disassembled, as we work to create fully inclusive galleries. We understand that immersive exhibits such as Old Town have been cherished by some visitors and will be missed. This is very valuable feedback that will help to inform the way we look to present future exhibitions.
- How can I give feedback on this process?
The work being done to modernize the Royal BC Museum is about embracing the opportunity to ensure that all of our histories are captured in a meaningful and respectful way to promote a shared understanding. We want to ensure that we are a museum that serves all British Columbians.
We will do that through community engagement and public consultation. There will be formal opportunities to provide input as this process moves forward. You can sign up to be notified about these opportunities by subscribing to the museum’s newsletter via our website.
Your feedback is important and it will help to inform the development of inclusive and immersive galleries in the future. We are looking to craft exhibitions that will inspire and be cherished by future generations, and we’ll do this is partnership with the people of BC.
- How long will the third floor be closed?
The process of creating new narratives for these galleries is long and requires a thoughtful process of community outreach, consultation and collaboration. We expect this work to take a number of years to complete.
- Why does this need to happen now?
In consultation in 2019 we heard from British Columbians and they want us to act, to make bold changes that will include the voices and reflect the lived experiences of the communities and peoples in the land we call British Columbia today. Closing the third floor galleries is the first step on a journey to doing this.
The museum’s galleries were developed a half century ago though a Eurocentric lens that does not accurately capture a full and inclusive story of many groups who have contributed to the province’s diversity, resilience, and strength. It’s important that our collective history is accurately reflected in the museum’s exhibits.
It takes time to make a change. We will disassemble the exhibitions and return the artifacts to collections for conservation while at the same time, we’ll embark on community engagement and consultation to help craft the new galleries.
- What will the new galleries look like?
We are at the very beginning of the process of creating new galleries. British Columbians will shape what the new galleries will look like. The lived experiences that are shared, and the way in which they are presented will be informed through extensive community engagement and consultation.
We will seek out diverse perspectives on BC identity—especially from institutionally underrepresented voices—to broaden historical narratives and foster inclusivity.
We understand that immersive exhibits such as Old Town have been cherished by some visitors and will be missed. This is very valuable feedback that will help to inform the way we look to present future exhibitions.
You can sign up to be notified about these opportunities by subscribing to the museum’s newsletter via our website.
- How will people learn about BC Human History with these galleries closed?
The Learning Portal and teacher’s learning aids created and managed by the museum are incredible, freely accessible online resources to learn about all aspects of BC.
The museum will continue to offer opportunities for community outreach and additional engagement through outreach, webinars, online learning and virtual tours. The museum will also expand its provincial travelling exhibition and pop-up exhibit programs, including installations across Greater Victoria. As we finalize these programs, we’ll share information through the Royal BC Museum website and social channels.
- When will community engagement and consultation on the new narratives start?
Initial consultation was undertaken in 2019 and we will be reaching out to engage communities across the province to ensure that the experiences and contributions of British Columbians are heard and included.
There will be formal opportunities to provide input and you can sign up to be notified about these opportunities by subscribing to the museum’s newsletter via our website.
- Will the price of museum admission be affected?
Yes. Effective January 2, 2022, museum admission will return to base rates of $18.00, from our current rate of $26.95. This includes admission to the highly successful feature exhibition, Orcas: Our Shared Future, which had been extended from January until March 31st 2022.
- Why has the museum stopped selling memberships?
Existing memberships will be honoured.
Those who wish to cancel their membership (due to the third-floor closure) will receive a pro-rated refund.
- Will the BC Archives or IMAX® Victoria be affected?
No, the BC Archives and IMAX® Victoria are not affected by the closure of the third floor.