Maritime Museum of BC

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Maritime Museum of BC
Location 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] With this mandate, it continues as one maritime museum among thousands within the international networks of maritime preservation.[2]


The museum opened by naval officers in 1955 at Signal Hill in Esquimalt, B.C. later went through name changes,[3] and the Maritime Museum of British Columbia Society registered in 1957 as a non-profit society would follow a broader Pacific coastal heritage mandate. The Maritime Museum moved in 1963-64 to 28 Bastion Square in downtown Victoria, British Columbia, and was formally opened in June 1965.[4] The corresponding Maritime Museum of British Columbia Foundation was established sixteen years later to develop long-term support for the Society.[5]

In 1981 a separate group founded the CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum, which continues at Naden on Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt.[6]

On September 23, 2014, the Maritime Museum began the process to lease space beside Victoria Harbour in the seismically upgraded former CPR Steamship Terminal, a space that until 2010 had been occupied by the Royal London Wax Museum.[7] An option to lease was signed and negotiations began. The Maritime's Bastion Square venue closed October 21, 2014, after forty-nine years in the heritage courthouse building. No date for the planned reopening was announced at the time.[8] By June 2015, negotiations failed after the museum was unable to cover $1 million in upgrades for the new space in the steamship terminal.[9] With government financing requiring the museum's collection to be moved out of the Bastion Square location by September 30, 2015, the museum plans to store most of the collection temporarily in Saanich's former BC Systems Corporation building and is considering a downtown storefront to maintain its public presence and to store the rest of the collection while it awaits a decision on its future.[10]

Collection and exhibits[edit]

At the Bastion Square location, three floors of exhibits covered early Pacific explorers, shipbuilding, coastal commerce and the related roles of the Hudson's Bay Company, Canadian Pacific, B.C. Ferries, the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy in provincial and local-areas history.[11] One of the vessels in the museum's collection is the 1897 sailboat Dorothy, a small fantail cutter being restored and documented.[12] She is part of a collection that includes the 1950s-vintage sailing dinghy Trekka[13] and the Tilikum, the modified 30-foot cedar-log canoe sailed from Vancouver Island across the Pacific and on to London, England, by 1904.[14] Shipped back to home port Victoria years later, she was restored and donated to the museum by members of the Thermopylae Club.[15] The scale models collection includes sailing ships of the transoceanic and Pacific coast operations of the Hudson's Bay Company in the nineteenth century and one of a present-day motorized replica of the HBC's 17th-century trading ship Nonsuch.[16] The Maritime's research library and archival holdings include artworks, nautical charts, logbooks, corporate and private records, ship plans for more than 900 vessels and approximately 36,000 photographs.[17]

Exhibits drawn from the 40,000-odd artifacts and documents will again be open to the public after transition to a redesigned space.[18] The museum society's community outreach and programming continue in the interim.[19]

Heritage structure[edit]

The museum had been housed in the 1889 provincial law courts building later listed as a National Historic Site of Canada.[20] Designed by architect Otto Tiedemann, one of the designers of Fisgard Lighthouse, the building was structurally modified by Francis Rattenbury.[21] The province's first Supreme Court on the third floor was once presided over by Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, Chief Justice of the Colony of British Columbia and, in time, of the new province of British Columbia.[22] The room also served as the Vice-Admiralty Courtroom and, after a 1990s restoration, was periodically requested as supplemental space for the provincial justice system. The building's ornate elevator was installed in 1899 during architect Rattenbury's changes to the interior.[23] Mentioned as the oldest operating birdcage elevator in North America, it appeared on a list of top ten elevator rides worldwide.[24]


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. The organization is under the patronage of the Hon. Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.[25]

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. ^ WP article "Maritime museum," retrieved 2011-01-11 at; International Congress of Maritime Museums home page, retrieved 2010-04-14 at
  3. ^ History section, CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum website; retrieved 2015-04-03 at
  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; registration data, retrieved 2015-04-05 here; Registered Charity Information Return (CRA T3010), retrieved 2015-04-05 here.
  6. ^ CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum website; retrieved 2015-04-03 here.
  7. ^ Andrew Duffy, "Steamship building top priority for harbour," Times Colonist, 25 Sept 2014, retrieved 2014-10-26 here.
  8. ^ "Maritime Museum signs option for Steamship Terminal". BC Shipping News. September 23, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Harbour move a bust for Maritime Museum". Times Colonist. June 6, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Victoria's Maritime Museum considers temporary storefront home". June 10, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Rachel Stern, “Oldest yacht in Pacific Northwest being restored by Gabriolan,” Nanaimo News Bulletin, 8 July 2012; retrieved 2015-04-07 here; restoration detail, retrieved 2015-04-07 at
  13. ^ Richard Watts, "Old boat gets new love," Times Colonist, 15 Aug 2013, retrieved 2013-08-16 here
  14. ^ Erin Cardone, "Tilikum’s story," Saanich News, 20 May 2001, p. A-11.
  15. ^ Arthur Ives, "Old salts gather to trade yarns," Times Colonist, 17 April 1994, p. M-2.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Holdings list at MemoryBC: The British Columbia Archival Information Network, retrieved 2011-05-21 here.
  18. ^ Richard Watts, "Victoria's Maritime Museum is on the move," Times Colonist, 17 Oct 2014, retrieved 2014-10-19 here.
  19. ^ Andrew Duffy, "Maritime Museum packs its artifacts, awaits news of a new home," Times Colonist, 9 Feb 2015, retrieved 2015-03-03 here.
  20. ^ Former Victoria Law Courts. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "Begbie's courtroom yields clues under close cross-examination," Hallmark Society Newsletter 23, No. 4 (Winter 1996), pp. 8-9; WP article text, Matthew Baillie Begbie.
  23. ^ "The Maritime Museum of BC: Bird Cage Elevator". 
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ List of organizations, retrieved 2015-04-05 here.

External links[edit]

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