Royal BC Museum: Intriguing, Informative & Interactive

For young and old alike, visiting the Royal BC Museum in Victoria BC is a terrific way to spend a few hours. If you take the time to examine the artifacts on display, you’ll be amazed at the treasures and oddities on display – like the dagger that was reputedly used to kill Captain Cook – founder of Victoria. The Royal BC Museum is intriguing, informative and interactive. 

The museum was founded in 1886 and was originally housed in a single room adjoining the Provincial Secretary’s office in the Capitol Buildings. The Province started collecting archival records in 1894 and established the Provincial Archives in 1908. It wasn’t until 2003 when the museum and the archives combined their efforts and the Museum Act was re-written providing this establishment with the updated mandate of collecting and safeguarding artifacts, documents and specimens of British Columbia’s natural and human history. 

Land that the current museum sits on was purchased in 1941 and Thunderbird Park was created when totem poles from the museum’s collection were erected. Unfortunately, within 10 years there was noticeable deterioration of the poles and the decision was made to begin a pole restoration project. The poles currently on display are replicas of the originals which were moved indoors to climate-controlled facilities. The current museum structure was built as part of a Canadian centennial project and the Royal BC Museum of Victoria moved into their newly-constructed building in 1969. 

The museum consists of permanent displays including Our Living Languages: First People’s Voices in BC, the First Peoples Gallery and the Natural History Gallery and travelling exhibits such as Wildlife Photographer of the Year (2020) and Terry Fox: Running to the Heart of Canada (2017). Check the museum schedule to see the upcoming exhibitions and more information to help plan your trip. 

Part of the Wildlife of the Year 2020 Exhibit
Wildlife of the Year 2020 Exhibit

During our most recent visit to the museum (fortunately we got there right before the pandemic), I was excited to see John Lennon’s rolls Royce which was on display in the lobby.

Like so many people, I too wondered why this magnificent piece of art/history wasn’t on permanent display. Turns out it is too large to fit inside the Royal BC Museum’s freight elevator and even if it could, there is a lack of climate-controlled space in either the 2nd or 3rd floor galleries. As well the sheer weight of the vehicle – a whopping 2,700 kgs presents structural challenges for the museum. Similarly, the main lobby is not appropriate for permanent display due to the amount of light and inability to control the temperature. For now, the vehicle will be displayed briefly in the glass lobby during quieter winter months.

Once inside the museum, there are several interactive displays that will delight guests of all ages. Walk through the “language forest” and listen to a greeting in one of the 34 First Nations languages, peer into a tide-pool to discover the marine life or take a selfie with the woolly mammoth. 

Mammoth selfie
My nephew and son moments before deciding to check out the mammoth up close and setting off the alarm!

I usually visit the Royal BC Museum in Victoria when there is a specific travelling exhibit that I am interested in, but that’s because I have the opportunity to go whenever I want. If you have flexibility when you visit Victoria, be sure to consult the Royal BC Museum website to see the schedule of upcoming exhibitions. Otherwise, I am confident you will be happy to experience the museum regardless of what additional displays may be there at the time.

Of note, the IMAX theatre is also on location and tickets can be purchased for either the museum or the IMAX or a combo for both. 

Museum admission fees range from $11.00 to $18.00 – children under 5 are free. 

The Royal BC Museum in Victoria is a cultural treasure not to be missed. Plan your visit today. 

NOTE: Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed due to COVID-19. Be sure to consult their website before you visit.

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