Maritime Museum of BC
|Location||Victoria, British Columbia|
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. With this mandate, it continues as one maritime museum among thousands within the international networks of maritime preservation.
The museum opened by naval officers in 1955 at Signal Hill in Esquimalt, B.C. later went through name changes, 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. The corresponding Maritime Museum of British Columbia Foundation was established sixteen years later to develop long-term support for the Society.
In 1981 a separate group founded the CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum, which continues at Naden on Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt.
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. 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. By June 2015, negotiations failed after the museum was unable to cover $1 million in upgrades for the new space in the steamship terminal. 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.
Collection and exhibits
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. One of the vessels in the museum's collection is the 1897 sailboat Dorothy, a small fantail cutter being restored and documented. She is part of a collection that includes the 1950s-vintage sailing dinghy Trekka and the Tilikum, the modified 30-foot cedar-log canoe sailed from Vancouver Island across the Pacific and on to London, England, by 1904. Shipped back to home port Victoria years later, she was restored and donated to the museum by members of the Thermopylae Club. 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. 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.
Exhibits drawn from the 40,000-odd artifacts and documents will again be open to the public after transition to a redesigned space. The museum society's community outreach and programming continue in the interim.
The museum had been housed in the 1889 provincial law courts building later listed as a National Historic Site of Canada. Designed by architect Otto Tiedemann, one of the designers of Fisgard Lighthouse, the building was structurally modified by Francis Rattenbury. 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. 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. Mentioned as the oldest operating birdcage elevator in North America, it appeared on a list of top ten elevator rides worldwide.
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.
- List of historic places in Victoria, British Columbia
- Vancouver Maritime Museum, Vancouver, British Columbia
- International Congress of Maritime Museums (ICMM)
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- List of organizations, retrieved 2015-04-05 here.
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