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

historyMaritime Museum of BC

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

Just Posted

Victoria art gallery provides Open Space in an online way

View Chantal Gibson’s recent show on the web, hear Indigenous stories on Instagram starting Sunday

Victoria brewery throws support behind still-operating restaurants

Vancouver Island Brewing initiates #TakeOutTuesday to keep local eateries in the public eye

LIVE MUSIC: Artist in Residence reaching into the community

Kathryn Calder to perform livestream show on YouTube channel this Friday, April 3

Victoria vocalist Maria Manna reaches out to hard-hit Italy with special online song

Jazz singer to perform ‘Hymn to Freedom’ with Italian lyrics on Facebook at 2 p.m. Monday

Royal BC Museum joins home education trend for outreach programs

Free webinar options available for RBCM@Home and kids’ programs, starting March 31

Hip tradition sing-along planned again for Canadians April 2

The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois is encouraging all to join him virtually in a’Porch Session.’

Vancouver Island musicians in quarantine thank neighbours with backyard performance

Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra director Karl Rainer and his sons play for those in self-isolation

Order of Canada Vancouver Island musician pens ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’

Qualicum Beach lawyer and saxophonist Phil Dwyer notes health officer has become a ‘folk hero’

Campbell River journalist launches Isolationpalooza II

Featuring all local musicians, a volunteer virtual concert, of sorts

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

Netflix reducing video quality in Canada to lower Internet bandwidth use

Bell Media is also planning traffic measures affecting the Crave streaming service

Will the show go on? B.C. music festivals consider options for 2020

Summer events running out of time to stay on schedule, in wake of COVID-19 uncertainties

Most Read