British Columbia

Victoria maritime museum wants federal status by 2021, says director

The Maritime Museum of B.C. is encouraged by a pledge from Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer to instate a new national museum in Regina, Sask. if his party wins power in the upcoming federal election.

Victoria museum encouraged by Conservatives' pledge for new national museum in Regina

In January, David Leverton, executive director of the Maritime Museum of B.C., filed a $45 million proposal with the federal government that would rebrand the current museum with federal status.  (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

The Maritime Museum of B.C. is encouraged by a pledge from Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer to instate a new national museum in Regina, Sask. if his party wins power in the upcoming federal election.

Federal status is the goal of the Victoria, B.C., museum too. In January, executive director David Leverton filed a $45-million proposal with the federal government that would rebrand the current museum.

This would allow the museum access to historical maritime artifacts from the nation's capital and aid tourism, said Leverton. He hopes they will get a signed federal agreement in time to commemorate B.C.'s 150th anniversary of joining the confederation in 2021.

Both Scheer and Leverton argue national museums do not have to be in the nation's capital. 

There are currently nine national museums in Canada—one located in Halifax, seven in Ottawa and one in Winnipeg. If successful, the Victoria museum would be the first national maritime museum in the country.

"We have three oceans and the longest coastline in the world, and it's shared by eight of our Canadian provinces and our three territories. And yet we have nothing to celebrate or commemorate that fact," Leverton told Gregor Craigie, host on On the Island

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer says he will give the Mounted Police Heritage Centre in Regina federal status if the Conservative Party comes to power in the upcoming federal election. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

He said the Conservative party's pledge to create a new national museum outside of Ottawa is encouraging.

"The biggest challenge is that and what we've learned through this is that the creation of any new national museum is really very much a political decision," said Leverton. 

"We really do need to have the support both nationally as well as provincially in terms of being able to do this."

Location and free access

For 50 years, Victoria's Bastion Square was home to the Maritime Museum of B.C. But in 2015, the museum was forced to vacate its location after the building was deemed unsafe. It is now located on Humboldt Street.

The proposed national museum would be back at Bastion Square, which would be upgraded. The proposal also included the creation of a collections management building, which would house more than 35,000 artifacts currently in the maritime museum's possession. 

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)

Scheer has also pledged to make admission to visit all national museums free to anyone. Leverton is a strong supporter of free access. 

"These assets belong to all Canadians and it would be great if all Canadians would have the access to be able to see them without charge," said Leverton.

The museum also wishes to offer First Nations on the West Coast the opportunity to have their cultural objects repatriated from Ottawa into the new Victoria national museum. Leverton said eventually they want the objects to be repatriated back to First Nations communities.

Listen to the full story here:

With files from On the Island and Alex Soloducha

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