B.C. Maritime Museum executive director David Leverton wants the museum to have a purpose-built location, and a national title. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

B.C. Maritime Museum angling for waterfront location, national status

Most of collection sits in storage these days, with just 3,000 square feet for display space

The British Columbia Maritime Museum has had a tough time navigating the waters of real estate and government grants, but it’s not discouraged.

In fact, the organization is setting course for a much larger, much newer location – and seeking recognition as a national museum.

“Currently there are no national museums west of Winnipeg, so we think this would be a wonderful contribution to the Canadian museum fabric and the national fabric of museums by having something here in Victoria,” said executive director David Leverton.

The B.C. Maritime Museum, currently housed at 634 Humboldt St., was situated in the iconic 1889 courthouse building at 28 Bastion Sq. for 50 years. The historic facility allotted the museum 25,000 square feet of space, which Leverton said was useful, but a bit of a strange configuration.

The building began to reveal its age and the Maritime Museum moved out in 2015 at the suggestion of the province, which owns the structure. Bids are being accepted for a repurposing of the building, but it requires upwards of $12 million worth of renovations and seismic upgrades.

The Maritime Museum downsized to a location at Nootka Court that is less than 3,000 sq. ft.

“It’s very challenging in terms of doing meaningful displays,” Leverton admitted. “At the Bastion Square location we could have a lot of different objects out at any given time, because we had a lot more space to work with.”

The museum has been forced to get creative with its displays and outreach programs to share its collection, but Leverton said they’re still worried about their artifacts in storage.

At Bastion Square it was possible to store undisplayed items on site. Now, much of the collection is kept in a 10,000-sq.-ft. storage locker provided by the province, while some vessels are kept at Ogden Point.

The previous Maritime Museum in Bastion Square was originally a courthouse. This photo is dated 1895 (FILE CONTRIBUTED).

“The current problem we have there is … [it’s] not environmentally controlled at all,” Leverton said. “So it’s really subject to temperature variation, humidity variation and we’d very much like to, from a collections management perspective, get that into proper storage.”

Over the years the Maritime Museum has collected over 35,000 artifacts representing nautical history from B.C. and across Canada, as well as over 9,000 books and thousands of photographs and pieces of art. It’s an unparalleled collection that Leverton believes deserves a new and purpose-built space with a national title.

The museum has set a target goal to find a new location of 2021, in time to mark the 150th anniversary of B.C. joining confederation.

The Maritime Museum when it was situated in Bastion Square, circa the 1990s. (FILE CONTRIBUTED)

“We’re taking this year to really identify as many potential locations as possible, and then at the end of the year really sit down and evaluate which one is preferred,” Leverton said.

They will need to apply for grants through the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund and others, he added, but to be eligible they need a defined location.

As such, the museum is working closely with the provincial and federal governments to find the perfect spot. While there’s no site pinpointed yet, Leverton said they desire a central location for display purposes, as well as to have protected off-site storage for artifacts.

He also mentioned the dream goal:

“We want to be on the waterfront, if at all possible. We’re a maritime museum [with] a few vessels and we’d like to see those actually out on the water and to use them again.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mathieu Poirier: Excitement builds for Victoria Beer Week

Tickets for March 6-14 celebration of all things crafty on sale now

The Music of Cream touring band more than a tribute act

Ginger Baker’s son Kofi, Clapton’s nephew Will joined by rock stalwarts for 50th anniversary tour

Actors asked to find a spirituality for new Belfry production

Playwright/director Tara Beagan’s The Ministry of Grace tells Indigenous tale of challenge, love

PERFECTLY POTABLE: Bold reds that make you stand up and take notice

Monday wine columnist Robert Moyes weighs in on a trio of fine reds and a yummy late harvest white

Powerful Russian folk trio makes triumphant return to city

Trio Voronezh back on Victoria stage for first time since appearing at Coupe Mondiale in 2013

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Winners announced for inaugural Victoria Arts Council/Monday poetry contest

More than 100 entries received in five categories

Canadian polar bears’ ‘ingenious’ survival seen in BBC Earth series

Film crews also go to Tofino to watch black bears snap up crabs under massive boulders

Spring author’s reading series kicks off early in Sidney

Sidney and Peninsula Literary Society hosting Yasuko Thanh and Carla Funk for Feb. 7 event

The winners of London Drugs’ 2019 Amateur Photographer of the Year contest are…

After more than 26,000 entries, the winners have been selected across Western Canada.

‘How to Train Your Dragon’ filmmaker Dean DeBlois among Canadian Oscar nominees

Multiple Oscar-nominated Canadian talents on Academy Award hopefuls list

Most Read