Following an outpouring of public backlash, the BC government announced its plans to halt the $789-million rebuild of Victoria’s Royal BC Museum (RBCM) on Wednesday.
“We made choices based on the best information at hand, and we thought we had it right. Clearly, we did not,” said Premier John Horgan during a June 22nd press conference.
“I’ve heard the people of BC quite clearly that we were making the wrong decision at the wrong time.”
In mid-May, BC officials said the RBCM on Belleville Street would close this September to make way for a state-of-the-art, seismically safe building expected to open in 2030.
At the time, Horgan summed it up as a “historic investment” to build a safer, more inclusive and accessible modern museum—replacing the aging facility people have flocked to for decades.
Now, Horgan says it’s “back to the drawing board.”
That means the RBCM, including the IMAX Theatre, gift shops and food trucks, will stay open to visitors as museum staff rethink long-term plans and lead a broad public engagement to consider all options for the facility’s future.
I always try to act in the best interests of British Columbians. That involves always listening, and taking responsibility when you make the wrong call. This is one of those times.
Today I'm announcing that we're stopping the plan for a new @RoyalBCMuseum. pic.twitter.com/js5QKBPq1F
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) June 22, 2022
The announcement comes following a recently released Angus Reid poll that found out of 615 respondents, a majority of British Columbians, or 69%, weren’t behind a new RBCM, including BC Liberals leader Kevin Falcon who called it a “vanity project.”
A Vancouver Island First Nation also suggested the BC government curb building a new museum and instead develop museums within First Nations, returning artifacts to their respective territories.
“It’s my responsibility to say to you today that I made the wrong call. That’s not to say that work that needs to be done at the RBCM should be suspended indefinitely,” said Horgan.
“What it means is that I made a call at a time when British Columbians were talking and thinking of other concerns—primary care for their families, education, the cost of living, a range of other issues as we came out of a global pandemic.”
Public engagement will seek input on what BC residents want to see in a modernized museum and also address structural and safety issues identified with the current buildings, according to officials.
“At the end of the day, this museum belongs to the people of British Columbia, and their voices will determine its future,” said Tourism Minister Melanie Mark.
Meanwhile, construction of a new Collections and Research Building in Colwood, set to open in 2025, will continue and house museum artifacts once complete, the government adds.