Province to spend $789M for new Royal B.C. Museum on current site

The British Columbia government will spend $789 million on a new Royal B.C. Museum building at its current location near the B.C. legislature in Victoria.

Premier John Horgan joined Tourism and Culture Minister Melanie Mark, as well as the museum's CEO and chiefs from the Songhees and Esquimalt nations, for the announcement Friday.

The new building will incorporate mass-timber construction and will meet modern safety and accessibility standards.

"I know the value and importance of the seven million artifacts housed in this building," Horgan said during a news conference announcing the redevelopment Friday afternoon. "They need to be housed more appropriately than they have over the past several decades."

Earlier this year, the province said the current museum facilities on Bellville Street are nearing the end of their life and fall short of current seismic standards.

In November, the museum announced that it would close its beloved third floor galleries, including Old Town and the First Peoples exhibits, saying it was closing the galleries in support of "decolonization" efforts.

The new museum will be among the first large-scale B.C. government projects to partner with local First Nations in both project development and delivery, including designs that will reflect the Lekwungen-speaking peoples, and members of the Songhees Nation and Esquimalt Nation, the province said.

Mark said the question of dropping the word "royal" from the new museum's name was raised in the planning process but no decision has been finalized. The minister said the province will be asking British Columbians for input on the new museum's name as construction gets underway.

The $789-million price tag for the new building is in addition to the $200-million archives and research building currently under construction in Colwood, B.C., Horgan said.

The current museum will remain open to the public until Sept. 6, while the Imax theatre and museum gift shop will operate until early 2023, according to the province.

The new museum is scheduled to open in 2030. The province says the redevelopment project will create 1,950 direct construction jobs and 1,050 associated jobs.

Museum CEO Alicia Dubois said the museum will operate travelling exhibitions and satellite displays in Victoria and around the province during the closure.

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