Maritime Museum of BC

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Maritime Museum of BC
Location Bastion Square Victoria, British Columbia
Type Maritime museum

The Maritime Museum of BC reflects the Pacific maritime history and culture of Canada's west coast, with an exhibits and public program mandate for research, education, and partnership.[1]


Formed in 1953 by naval officers at Signal Hill in Esquimalt, B.C., the Maritime Museum of British Columbia Society was registered in 1957 as a non-profit society with a broadened mandate.[2] The MMBC moved in 1963-64 to Bastion Square, Victoria, British Columbia and was formally opened in June 1965.[3] The Maritime Museum of British Columbia Foundation was established in 1981 to develop long-term support for the Society.[4]

On September 23, 2014, after 50 years of being located in Bastion Square, the museum signed a new lease to move from its Bastion Square location to the causeway level of the seismically upgraded Steamship Terminal Building on Victoria Harbour, a space that had been formerly occupied by the Royal London Wax Museum until 2010. The move starts with the closure of the Bastion Square location on October 21, 2014 and plans to reopen in the Steamship Terminal location in 2015. No timeline for the reopening of the new location has been announced.[5]

Collection and exhibits[edit]

Three floors of exhibits cover Pacific exploration, the shipbuilding industry and coastal commerce and history, including the related roles of the Hudson's Bay Company, Canadian Pacific, B.C. Ferries, the Royal Navy & the Royal Canadian Navy.[6] Of the three vessels in the museum's collection, one is displayed on the main floor. The Tilikum, a modified 30-foot cedar-log canoe, was sailed from Vancouver Island across the Pacific, reaching London, England, by 1904.[7] Shipped back to its home port years later, it was restored and donated by members of the Thermopylae Club.[8]The extensive collection of ship models includes one of HMY Britannia and another of the Hudson's Bay Company's 17th-century trading ship Nonsuch.[9] Archival holdings include corporate and private records, artworks, nautical charts, logbooks, ship plans for more than 900 vessels and approximately 36,000 photographs.[10] The research library and archives are accessible only by appointment.

Heritage structure[edit]

The museum is housed in the 1889 provincial law courts building near the Inner Harbour that was designed by architect H.O. Tiedemann and later structurally modified by Francis Rattenbury.[11] The province's first Supreme Court on the third floor, which also functioned as Vice-Admiralty Courtroom and after restoration is still rented as a supplemental court venue, was once presided over by Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, Chief Justice of the Colony of British Columbia.[12] The museum's ornate elevator was installed in 1899 during architect Rattenbury's changes to the interior.[13] Mentioned as the oldest operating birdcage elevator in North America, it is on a list of top ten elevator rides worldwide.[14]

The building is a National Historic Site of Canada.[15]


The Maritime Museum of BC is affiliated with the B.C. Museums Association, the Canadian Museums Association, the Virtual Museum of Canada and Canadian Heritage Information Network.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith’s Master Index to Maritime Museum Websites, retrieved 2011-05-21, online here; MMBC Visitor Information Guide, 2010; partnership-promo page, Sea of Cortez cruise April-May 2011, MMBC and Vision 2000 Travel Group with Holland America Line, 2011.
  2. ^ A separate entity, the CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum, continues at Naden on Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, website here.
  3. ^ Business Plan 1998/99, "Institutional History" list, Maritime Museum of British Columbia.
  4. ^ AGM agenda, MMBC Foundation, 1996.
  5. ^ "Maritime Museum signs option for Steamship Terminal". BC Shipping News. September 23, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ Katherine Dedyna, “Museum charts new course through rough financial seas,” Times Colonist, 19 September 2010, pp. D-1, 6-7; Debra Brash, "Treasures of the Maritime Museum of B.C.," Vancouver Sun, 17 September 2010, retrieved 2011-05-22, online here
  7. ^ Erin Cardone, "Tilikum’s story," Saanich News, 20 May 2001, p. A-11.
  8. ^ Arthur Ives, "Old salts gather to trade yarns," Times Colonist, 17 April 1994, p. M-2.
  9. ^ Patrick Murphy, "Mini-Britannia to rule at Maritime Museum," Times Colonist, 4 January 1995, p. B-4; Patrick Murphy, "Model of Hudson's Bay ship labour of love for its builder," Times Colonist, 1 April 1992, p. B-6.
  10. ^ Holdings list at MemoryBC: The British Columbia Archival Information Network, retrieved 2011-05-21, online here.
  11. ^ Entry at Maritime Museum of BC, in Daniel Francis, ed., Encyclopaedia of British Columbia (Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour Publishing, 2000), ISBN 1-55017-200=X.
  12. ^ "Begbie's courtroom yields clues under close cross-examination," Hallmark Society Newsletter 23, No. 4 (Winter 1996), pp. 8-9.
  13. ^ "The Maritime Museum of BC: Bird Cage Elevator". 
  14. ^ "Top 10 - Elevator Rides", in Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips (National Geographic Society, 2007), ISBN 1-4262-0125-7, retrieved 2011-01-09.
  15. ^ Former Victoria Law Courts. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 25 November 2011.

External links[edit]

Museum's official site

Coordinates: 48°25′34″N 123°22′08″W / 48.4260°N 123.3688°W / 48.4260; -123.3688