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 (CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum) 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][2]


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.[3] The MMBC moved in 1963-64 to 28 Bastion Square, Victoria, British Columbia and was formally opened in June 1965.[4] The Maritime Museum of British Columbia Foundation was established in 1981 to develop long-term support for the Society.[5]

On September 23, 2014, after forty-nine years in the heritage courthouse building, the museum signed an option to lease waterfront space on the causeway level of the seismically upgraded CPR Steamship Terminal, a space that until 2010 had been occupied by the Royal London Wax Museum.[6] The move to a new location beside Victoria Harbour started with the closure of the Bastion Square venue on October 21, 2014. No timeline for a planned 2015 reopening was announced.[7]

Collection and exhibits[edit]

The collection of 40,000-odd artifacts and documents will be stored during the transition until exhibits are installed in redesigned space.[8] At the Bastion Square location, three floors of exhibits covered 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.[9] Of the three vessels in the museum's collection, one was displayed on the main floor. The Tilikum, a modified 30-foot cedar-log canoe, was sailed from Vancouver Island across the Pacific and onward, reaching London, England, by 1904.[10] Shipped back to its home port years later, it was restored and donated by members of the Thermopylae Club.[11]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.[12] Archival holdings and the research library, accessible by appointment, include corporate and private records, artworks, nautical charts, logbooks, ship plans for more than 900 vessels and approximately 36,000 photographs.[13]

Heritage structure[edit]

The museum had been housed in the 1889 provincial law courts building designed by architect H. O. Tiedemann and later structurally modified by Francis Rattenbury.[14] The province's first Supreme Court on the third floor, which also functioned as Vice-Admiralty Courtroom and which after a 1990s restoration was sometimes requested as a supplemental courtroom for the provincial justice system, was once presided over by Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, Chief Justice of the Colony of British Columbia.[15] The museum's ornate elevator was installed in 1899 during architect Rattenbury's changes to the interior.[16] Mentioned as the oldest operating birdcage elevator in North America, it is on a list of top ten elevator rides worldwide.[17]

The Otto Tiedemann building that housed the museum is a National Historic Site of Canada.[18]


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; partnership announcement page, Sea of Cortez cruise April-May 2011, MMBC Visitor Information Guide, 2010, and Vision 2000 Travel Group/Holland America Line, 2011.
  2. ^ "History of CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum". CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum. Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  3. ^ A separate entity, the CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum, continues at Naden on Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, website here.
  4. ^ “Editorial: Museum needs to sail carefully," Times Colonist, 25 Sept 2014; retrieved 26 Sept 2014 here; Business Plan 1998/99, "Institutional History" list, Maritime Museum of British Columbia.
  5. ^ AGM agenda, MMBC Foundation, 1996.
  6. ^ Andrew Duffy, "Steamship building top priority for harbour," Times Colonist, 25 Sept 2014, retrieved 2014-10-26 here.
  7. ^ "Maritime Museum signs option for Steamship Terminal". BC Shipping News. September 23, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  8. ^ Richard Watts, "Victoria's Maritime Museum is on the move," Times Colonist, 17 Oct 2014, retrieved 2014-10-19 here.
  9. ^ Katherine Dedyna, “Museum charts new course through rough financial seas,” Times Colonist, 19 Sept 2010, pp. D-1, 6-7; Debra Brash, "Treasures of the Maritime Museum of B.C.," Vancouver Sun, 17 Sept 2010, retrieved 2011-05-22, here.
  10. ^ Erin Cardone, "Tilikum’s story," Saanich News, 20 May 2001, p. A-11.
  11. ^ Arthur Ives, "Old salts gather to trade yarns," Times Colonist, 17 April 1994, p. M-2.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Holdings list at MemoryBC: The British Columbia Archival Information Network, retrieved 2011-05-21 here.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Begbie's courtroom yields clues under close cross-examination," Hallmark Society Newsletter 23, No. 4 (Winter 1996), pp. 8-9.
  16. ^ "The Maritime Museum of BC: Bird Cage Elevator". 
  17. ^ "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; Richard Watts, "Maritime Museum's move leaves hole in Bastion Square," Times Colonist, 18 Oct 2014, retrieved 2014-10-18 here.
  18. ^ Former Victoria Law Courts. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 25 November 2011.

External links[edit]

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