British Columbia

B.C.'s maritime museum finds new home in Langford

The museum — currently located in downtown Victoria — has been looking to relocate since its building in Bastion Square was declared seismically unsound.

Museum explores the maritime culture and history of the Pacific Northwest

The Maritime Museum of B.C. is currently located in downtown Victoria on Humboldt Street, near the Empress Hotel. (The Maritime Museum of British Columbia)

The Maritime Museum of British Columbia is putting down its anchor in Langford, B.C.

The museum, which explores the maritime history and culture of the Pacific Northwest, is currently located in downtown Victoria, but has been looking to relocate since its building in Bastion Square was declared seismically unsound.

Now the museum has signed a deal to be part of a new $87-million conference centre and performing arts theatre planned in Langford, a city within the Capital Regional District.

The city, which is providing the land, put up $30 million for the project, with the museum providing the remaining $57 million. 

Captain John Clarkson, chair of the museum's board, says the museum has been looking for a new space for four years.

"Finding spaces for museums — or any other organization like this — is not the easiest in order," Clarkson said.

"In the light of having little or no other proposals on our books at the moment, this is extremely good for us."

Location, location, location

Despite the fact that it was one of their only options, Clarkson said the deal was an attractive one, pointing to the financial sustainability of the proposal, the design of the structure, and the ability to display all the museum's artifacts.

"[The proposal] will give us a full floor space — 80,000 square feet," he said.

"Right now we have a vast majority of the artifacts in storage in a provincial government building on Seymour. And we're hoping to get all of those out and get them on full display at this particular museum."

Stew Young, the mayor of Langford, said his growing city — which currently has a population of around 35,000 people — needs amenities like the theatre and museum complex. 

"If we're continuing to see the economic development with businesses coming to Langford and, of course, the affordable housing we're building ... we have to build things for the future," Young said. 

"[This project] is very feasible, is very doable."

National recognition sought

The museum is also hoping to be recognized as a national museum. There are currently nine museums in the national museum system — including the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights — but most are in Ottawa and none is west of Winnipeg. 

Being recognized as B.C.'s first national museum could help bring in federal recognition and funding, Clarkson said.

One potential disadvantage to the museum's relocation — losing its key downtown location — has a silver lining, says Clarkson. The Langford site will have plenty of free parking and be more accessible, he says. That, coupled with the other attractions in the proposal, he says, will attract tourists. 

"We're hoping that that will draw in the public and the families within the lower Vancouver Island area and certainly in British Columbia when they're visiting here," he said.

Listen to the segment on All Points West:

The museum — currently located in downtown Victoria — has been looking to relocate since its building in Bastion Square was declared seismically unsound. 7:49

 

With files from All Points West, On The Island

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