After two years of decolonization efforts in existing exhibitions, the Royal BC Museum is ready to open the third floor’s Old Town once again.
Old Town remains largely unchanged; however, some changes needed to be made in order to address past concerns of whose lens the Old Town exhibition was seen through.
The exhibit showcasing the province’s early European settlement history had been identified as problematic, and the museum leadership has decided to permanently close and remove it as part of their “decolonization” process, which began in late 2021.
Following its closure, many people were upset that so much history was being permanently removed and the decision was made in early 2023 to bring Old Town back in a new way.
“Old Town is beloved by hundreds of thousands of visitors. I know people miss it, are passionate about it and want access to it,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.
“We have heard you. The reopening of Old Town is exciting news for many who have fond memories of previous visits there, and for visitors who will experience it for the first time.”
Most of the exhibits will return, such as the garage, train station, hotel, saloon, parlour, kitchen, print shop and Chinatown preserved as they were.
Other spaces that have been emptied have been re-imagined with a new perspective.
The Majestic Theatre, for example, will not feature its Hollywood silent film rotation and, instead, will present historical footage showcasing the diversity of BC’s voices and stories.
“The entire streetscape has been deep cleaned from top to bottom: windows have been wiped, cobblestones repaired, and the train is back, running right on schedule as always,” says Jana Stefan, Exhibitions Production Manager at the Royal BC Museum.
“The team has carefully cleaned the artifacts that will be on display and have printed and installed new signage to add context and to invite visitors to consider our displays in new ways.”
In addition to the changes, new contextual panels will be seen throughout the gallery that provide background and historical reference for the items displayed throughout the exhibition.
These panels will “encourage critical thinking and ignite imagination,” the province said.
The reopening of Old Town is the first phase of a multi-year project to transform RBCM. Each phase will be informed by public engagement that invites people and communities to consider how spaces like Old Town and the First Peoples’ Gallery can be more relevant, inclusive and engaging.
Despite Old Town’s reopening, several areas of the third floor will not be accessible to visitors. This includes the Becoming BC Gallery that includes the ship, the gold mine, the farm and the cannery.
The exhibition officially reopens on Saturday, July 29th.